Ongoing coverage of child abuse in schools

Teacher in Limbo Accuses District of "Shotgun Justice"

Faults System That Allows District to Remove Teachers Indefinitely With No Deadline for Bringing Formal Charges

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An NBC4 exclusive about LAUSD teachers suspected of misconduct uncovers some of the hang-ups that are causing delays in the investigations. California taxpayers are currently picking up the tab for those delays.Patrick Healy reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2013. (Published Saturday, Sep 7, 2013)

    At its best, assignment to "teacher jail" is mind-numbingly boring.

    "You're sent basically to do nothing," said Michael Griffin, who taught 12 years at Crenshaw High before he was removed last October.

    "They put us on a list and sent us there to sit and rot," Griffin said, making no effort to hide his bitterness.

    Griffin said he would be the first to demand the removal of any teacher who abuses students. But he sees accountability flaws in a system that sets no time limit on how long a teacher can be left in limbo before the district makes a decision to seek dismissal.

    More: LAUSD Hiring Pro Investigators for Abuse Cases

    Some teachers he met have waited years before their cases were resolved.

    In his case, Griffin said he was notified by the principal that the school had received a call from a woman. She identified herself as a 27-year-old who had been in a relationship with Griffin 11 years earlier, when she was underage.

    Griffin said he does not know who the woman is because it never happened. School district officials say privacy guarantees preclude them from discussing personnel matters.

    NBC4 could not obtain any district comment on Griffin's situation.

    Griffin recognizes there is greater public awareness and caution since the Miramonte allegations alarmed parents across Southern California.

    Mark Berndt awaits trial on charges of abusing 23 elementary school students while he was teaching there.

    "After the Miramonte situation, the principals are afraid," Griffin said. "So any allegation, they're sending the teacher to teacher jail. It's shotgun justice."

    Every school day, Griffin reports to a room on the 11th floor of the school district's downtown headquarters on South Beaudry Avenue.

    "You're supposed to be creating lesson plans. All mine are in order," he said.

    Griffin is among those who contend the district's discipline system is vulnerable to abuse, offering an unscrupulous administrator the opportunity to get rid of a disliked teacher for an extended period of time based on nothing more than a vague suspicion.

    "Just sitting there for days, weeks, months, if not years is unacceptable," said Board of Education member Tamar Galatzan. "We need to have a better, stronger process to resolve these."

    LAUSD is now implementing Galatzan's April resolution calling for the hiring of a dedicated investigation team staffed by professionals with backgrounds in law enforcement and children's protective services.

    Griffin suspects his re-assignment stems from a year of turmoil at Crenshaw. The high school has been transformed into three separate magnet programs. Fully half the faculty was not invited to return.

    A dozen such teachers have filed grievances alleging unfair labor practices.

    Griffin decided to pursue education as a career after serving in the US Marine Corps. He's raised two children. A daughter in her early 20s still lives at home. He relieves stress by riding motorcycles.

    Griffin still wants to return to teaching. Not knowing when the district will act, he plans to return to graduate school to get a doctorate.

    "I had a reputation in my community. There's no way to get that back, even with reinstatement," he said.

    So why did he agree to speak out?

    "It's too important not to say something. Because it's wrong."

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