Sex Misdemeanor Reporting Requirements Signed Into Law in California

In the wake of the Miramonte sex abuse scandal in Los Angeles Unified School District, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a teacher misconduct bill that will penalize district superintendents who fail to report when staff members in direct contact with students are fired because of sexual abuse. Superintendents will have only 30 days to report any disciplinary infractions to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, putting an end to a years-long lag between incidents of sexual misconduct being identified and made public.

District officials who fail to file reports in a timely fashion will themselves be subject to the Commission discipline. Those who do so willfully in an attempt to cover up can face criminal charges of misdemeanor and could be fined up to $1,000.

"The bill will help keep students safe by requiring all school superintendents and administrators to report teacher misconduct in a timely fashion," said Jim Evans, a spokesman for Brown.

The measure was filed after a sex abuse incident involving a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles and a state audit finding that L.A. Unified failed to report at least 144 cases of teacher misconduct when required to do so.

Thirty-one of the cases were reported three years late, the audit found. As a result, the state was not able to review teachers who may have been unfit for the classroom, said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), author of the bill, AB 449.

Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times reports that the shortened reporting deadline will make it less likely that a teacher who is fired, dismissed or resigns from their position due to inappropriate contact with children gets a job elsewhere in California. Instead, the Commission will be able to quickly yank their teaching credentials, thus keeping them out of the classroom for good.

Muratsuchi called the legislation a significant step towards protecting the safety of California students.

The measure attracted broad support from groups that don't typically see eye-to-eye on education issues. Among those urging Brown to sign the bill were California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association and United Teachers Los Angeles.

In a letter urging Brown to sign it, UTLA President Warren Fletcher wrote that it would "ensure district superintendents are held accountable."

The governor also signed legislation expanding the state's open-meetings law by requiring local legislative bodies to publicly report the individual vote or abstention of each member in open session.

The bill applies to entities including regional transportation boards and groups such as the Southern California Assn. of Governments. City Councils already are subject to the bill's requirement.

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