Northern California Record

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Teacher discipline varies by school district, can be costly for some

By Noell Wolfgram Evans | Aug 16, 2016


SAN FRANCISCO – School districts across the state are increasingly facing an issue with how to handle those in the district who have issues following the rules. It’s not the students though, it’s the teachers and other administrative officials who are causing the concern.

In some districts, such as Los Angeles Unified School District, teachers who are under disciplinary review are still required to appear for work each day. Rather than go to the classroom though, they are sent essentially to “detention” where they are forced to go through the day spending their time on anything other than school and are being paid for it.

LA School Report reports that there are 181 Los Angeles Unified School District staff members are under disciplinary review. This number is up from last year's 174.

However, every district has the option for handling these disciplinary situations in different ways.

Heidi Anderson, public relations manager with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) told the Northern California Record that the district handles cases like this differently.

“SFUSD teachers who are on paid leave are not required to report to work,” she said.

While the number of teachers and administrators in these situations is considered to be small, it still poses a burden on the district in terms of curriculum, costs and coverage.

There is not just the cost of paying an individual teacher who is not working. There are also the associated costs - someone to cover the teacher's classes.

“If a teacher is placed on paid leave, a substitute teacher is provided to maintain seamless instruction for the students," Anderson said. "The request for substitutes is not disaggregated by reason for request.”

What makes this a difficult issue for districts to solve is that there is not a commonality among cases with the teachers.

“There are many reasons to cause a teacher to be placed on paid leave,” Anderson said.

There are some, such as Lance Izumi of the Pacific Research Institute, who see this issue not as a problem for individual districts but a larger concern of the state education system overall. Izumi and others argue that this is an issue of ineffective law, according to an article on California Watchdog.

To back up their argument, education reformers point to Vergara v. California. The case, initially filed in 2012, was brought about by a group of students who argued that existing state statutes were responsible for leaving ineffective teachers in classroom. In August 2014, the California Superior Court ruled in favor of the students. On April 14, a court of appeals reversed that ruling saying that the statutes the students were arguing against were constitutional. The student group of plaintiffs has asked the California Supreme Court to take up the case.

The final results of the Vergara case, with its arguments concerning tenure, dismissals and layoffs, will have a direct effect on how school districts in the future are able to handle those teachers whose actions currently put them in a position to spend their days in “detention.”

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Organizations in this Story

California Supreme CourtPacific Research Institute