The Miramonte lesson

What occurred at Miramonte Eelmentary School with teacher Mark Berndt is an example of a set of practices in the school system that are deficient when it comes to identifying and acting in a timely way. Changes to some rules are needed so what happened doesn’t occur again; but that doesn’t mean a wholesale attack again teachers or their union.

As more details become known about Berndt’s alledged actions, it becomes clear that some clauses in the union contract need to be modified so that future cases can be detected and don’t fall through the cracks. The case is also the latest straw in the conundrum of just how difficult it is to try to get rid of a teacher.

Changes are unavoidable. The teacher’s union (UTLA) is correct though when they argue that this is about a lack of district vigilance. The lack of resources and the excessive protection of teachers though are partially responsible for this.

The UTLA has an interest in caring about the professional behavior of its members, the vast majority of whom are dedicated educators who teach under adverse condition and are deeply committed to student learning. A shadow should not be cast on their reputations because of an internal system that protects violators at all costs. The mission of the union is to protect its member but the current policy doesn’t do them any favors.

Various proposals offered by the Los Angeles School District are well focused on needed changes. And, in Sacramento, both Democrats and Republicans are working on their proposals.

It is important to make changes but history suggests cool heads are needed. There are too many cases where laws are passed in the heat of the moment that go beyond what is needed or appropiate. In this case, the union is a vulnerable target, yet it isn’t the union but rather some of the rules of the game that are the problem. We hope that the teachers can be part of the solution to the tragic lessons learned from the case of the Miramonte School.