LA Unified Wins Praise From State Auditor

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles Unified School District has drastically improved its handling of teacher misconduct allegations and its efficiency in settling lawsuits, according to a state audit released Thursday.
     The follow-up report acknowledged the nation’s second-largest school district for improving its method of notifying the state of teacher misconduct allegations, allowing the state to investigate and suspend problematic teachers.
     “Our follow-up audit found that the Los Angeles Unified School District has fully implemented our previous recommendations related to the reporting, investigation and settlement of allegations of misconduct by district employees,” the audit said.
     California school districts are required by law to notify the state when teachers are fired or demoted due to misconduct within 30 days, and a 2012 state audit ridiculed the school district for failing to report teacher misconduct and firings.
     The previous audit, titled “Los Angeles Unified School District: It Could Do More to Improve its Handling of Child Abuse Allegations,” found the district failed to give the state appropriate notification in 144 of 429 cases reviewed.
     Thursday’s audit found the district properly notified the state within the required timeline in 92 out of 95 instances. State auditor Elaine Howle credited the district for implementing an investigation team that focuses on sexual misconduct and abuse allegations against teachers and district employees for the extreme improvement.
     “The district is now completing its investigations within an average of five months, or 50 percent faster than the amount of time that the district took for investigations that we analyzed during the 2012 audit,” Howle said.
     The district serves 31 cities and incorporated areas in Los Angeles County and employs more than 59,000 people. It’s the largest school district in California with over 600,000 enrolled students.
     The district has long been criticized for its handling of abuse allegations as well as the target of several high profile lawsuits.
     Several teachers were arrested in a child molestation scandal at Miramonte Elementary school in South Los Angeles and the entire staff has since been replaced. Former teacher Mark Berndt was charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct with children and is serving a 25-year sentence.
      The district settled with the families of the abused children for $139 million last year.
     Howle found the district has implemented her recommendations from the 2012 audit and did not include any new suggestions in the latest audit.
     The district said in a statement it was pleased with the auditor’s findings and that it is committed to the safety of its students.
     “In particular, it found that LA Unified has made great improvements including speeding up investigations by 50 percent; properly notifying the Commission on Teacher Credentialing by the deadline in almost 100 percent cases that were reviewed; and eliminating flawed data generated by the system that tracks legal settlements,” the district said.

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