Friday, February 10, 2012

Dear Readers: This is a reposting due to embedded coding going out to subscribers. I apologize and have reposted so it's easier to read.

By Diana L. Chapman
Peering at the distraught, crying students at Miramonte Elementary School – a campus that has riveted the nation with scandalous child abuse allegations and the removal of two teachers --  makes me believe “the adults” in charge have done it wrong once again.
Los Angeles Schools Superintendent John Deasy, I’m afraid, needs to look directly into those young faces and realize that stripping them of 85 of their good teachers along with administrators, janitors and school aides --amounts to stripping them of everything they know in their second home.
 Their school.
Between the chaos of police, reporters and school officials descending on the South Central campus – scary enough for anyone let alone children who can barely grasp what’s happening --  Deasy has just scrubbed excess salt into the open, wounded hearts of the students  and branded the now former staff with guilt by association.
“It’s clear that LAUSD does not have a plan,” said UTLA President Warren Fletcher at the school of 1,500 students, one of district’s largest elementary campuses. “They’re making it up as they go a long and the kids are paying the price. LAUSD is making a tragic situation even worse and traumatizing the entire school unnecessarily.
Parents and students want their teachers back.”
Can you blame them?
The vastness of Deasy’s action – apparently unprecedented in LAUSD and perhaps the nation – can’t help but trigger  more unsettling emotions among parents and students alike. They protested the move at an early Thursday morning UTLA press conference carrying signs such as “Don’t condemn all for acts of a few”  and showing anger that once again, they had not been consulted.
While initially believing the move was temporary, Fletcher said he was told the staff would not return at all.
 Such action will largely disrupt the children’s academic progress while they try to build bonds with new instructors. Having a substitute teacher for one day can be a huge interruption in learning. What will removing the entire staff do?
But this is the LAUSD way, a rubber stamp in the second largest district in the nation, serving nearly 700,000 students. Rottenness by some, means everyone pays.  
Unless there is going to be a horde of new arrests – which seems unlikely unless Deasy knows something we don’t– this move makes no sense and can only be more harmful to the students.
At the center of the allegations are two long-time Miramonte teachers: Mark Berndt, charged last week with 23 counts of lewd conduct, after a drug store photo tech contacted police about hundreds of photographs that involved students being blindfolded and possibly being spoon fed Berndt’s semen.
The other teacher, Martin Bernard Springer, 49 was arrested last week for three counts of lewd contact for allegedly fondling a student.
LAUSD fired both instructors, who have pleaded not guilty to the crimes.
At this juncture, we have to ask ourselves why the administrators weren’t on top of this in the first place after the school received several complaints about Berndt.
As a longtime volunteer at Los Angeles schools, I’ve seen injustices that are just plain wrong – nothing as horrendous as this – but issues that should not be happening at public schools.
It’s driven me crazy (and cannot be taken on without major battles), but underscores why parents need to return and become part of the campus package, no matter if it’s a charter, private or public school. It’s a necessary checks-and-balances and brings out a better chance of student issues actually being taken seriously.
It’s more than sad that when students stepped forward at Miramonte – a campus tucked east of the 110 Freeway in South Los Angeles --  to complain about Berndt or Springer, they were told they shouldn’t make things up.
Perhaps we should start out by listening to the students first and giving their complaints a full investigation, rather than a wave of hand.
No one listened to the children then.
And no one is listening to the children now, who are begging for their teachers to return.
You don’t have to hear how they feel. You can just look into their faces.