It is becoming evident that many in the state legislature and several public labor union leaders are supporting policies that harm public school children. They have backed several examples of state legislation which do not hold public sector employees who commit child abuse crimes fully accountable. As a transit advocate, that is absolutely unacceptable. As illustrated in the A Better Inland Empire logo, we advocate for policies that will bring the Inland Empire to economic prosperity free from corruption with a first-rate transportation system in a pollution-free environment, not only for ourselves but also for our children who will be our future leaders. That means getting behind legislation that hold child abuse criminals accountable and protecting innocent kids.
A disgraceful act and trivial regulatory obstructions in the public schools
|In January, 2011, this man, former Miramonte|
Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, was
accused of abusing his students.
The disgraceful evidence of this crime is overwhelming. According to an LA Weekly blog post, investigators confiscated over 400 photos of the in-class lewd acts, which authorities believed to have recurred over a two-year period between 2008 and 2010.
When presented with such evidence like that, both the school district's human resource office and the principal should have been able to immediately fire Berndt and hold him criminally liable for such actions. That would have been the just and right thing to do. Unfortunately, LAUSD was politically strapped from doing so.
According the LA Weekly, Berndt was immediately removed from the classroom, but the LAUSD didn't officially fire him until March no thanks to a mandatory 45-day notice period. Also under trivial rules, the accused criminal appealed the termination. In the end, the school district was forced to give Berndt a $40,000 payout just to convince him to drop the appeal and accept resignation. These trivial obstructions to remove an accused offender can be blamed on a complex teacher discipline system put together by the teacher unions. To be fair, investigators did instruct LAUSD not to conduct a duplicate investigation which may have contributed to the termination chaos, but that is no excuse to strip LAUSD or the school principal of the authority to immediately suspend Berndt without pay pending the results of such a serious investigation involving 23 children. Right now, the accused teacher is being held in jail. He has pleaded not guilty in court and his bail is set at $23 million.
The situation gets worse. This week the LAUSD was forced to hand out $27 million in settlements to victims to settle dozens of court claims. News reports indicate that the money will actually go to victims. Without question, victims should certainly be compensated for such crimes. However, this dole out came out of LAUSD's general fund, which means the good people of Los Angeles are forced to pay for Berndt's alleged crimes. LAUSD is trying to recoup some of the money from insurance, but why does it not have the power to work with law enforcement and file restitution charges in court against Berndt?
A disturbing response from the legislature
The defeat of SB 1059 was a disgrace which caused public backlash; so the legislature passed AB 375 this year which awaits the Governor's signature. The bill reforms some teacher dismissal procedures but still falls well short of what SB 1059 would have done to protect school children from predators. According the San Diego Union Tribune, the bill would actually grant more job protections which led its editorial board to oppose the legislation.
The final bill, if signed into law, does nothing to protect innocent children in our public schools who are our future of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. That is absolutely disgraceful.
Discriminatory public-sector exemptions of SB 131
For the record we do not oppose this bill outright, but feel both its merits and issues need to be exposed. To be fair, according to the official legislative analysis report, SB 131 also extends the time limits for victims to sue against the actual individual abuser, but in 1998 and 2002, similar time limit extension laws were passed. It was AB 1651 in 2002 that targeted private organizations as a whole which created a furry of lawsuits. The law allowed victims to sue a whole organization for damages beyond age 26 with a one year window whenever some corrupt leader inside was covering up child abuse crime. The 2002 law didn't target the necessarily target criminals nor those who abusively covered up, but the private organizations as a whole. That means, victims can sue for damage restitution, but innocent donors and sponsors may end up paying the bill, not those who committed the crime.
Last decade, these child abuse lawsuits filed against organizations flooded the courtrooms of California. Today, many of these court cases have been settled between victims and the offender--Correction--the offender's organization and its donors. Billions have been paid out by the non-profit sector to the suing parties, a significant portion of which didn't even go to the victims, but to the lawyers. The situation allowed for attorneys to profit from private organizations' treasuries funded by donors who played no roll in this disgraceful criminal activity. Do we really need a repeat of this entire fiasco?
Because of these flaws, many private groups are opposing the bill and have strong and legit reasons to back up their position. The California Council of Nonprofit Organizations poured $258,000 into fighting the bill. However, some in the media are not reporting all of the facts, causing the public to brand such organizations as child-haters for opposing SB 131. Here's how the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post spun it; click on the links to read how these outlets reported the story and how the readers responded. On the other side, this Sacramento Bee opinion piece shows that SB 131 won’t allow lawsuits to be revived against the actual perpetrator of abuse – just his or her employer. Upon further review, that is incorrect. The bill would extend the statute of limitations for suits against actual criminals with the information buried in the official legal analysis.
It's without question that the offending criminals, pedophiles and those who willfully cover up such acts must be held accountable. Corrupt leaders in many organizations have gravely messed up, especially those in the Roman Catholic Church. The offenders must be ousted from their jobs, serve mandatory jail time and pay restitution to the victims out of their own pockets. That's fair legislation. However there is no reason to throw out a whole organization with the flawed leaders; Judas was an apostle. Today, many organizations take responsibility for such criminal activity. Most churches have implemented child protection policies such as banning Sunday school classes and clergy appointments in private homes. Volunteers and employees who work with children are subject to criminal background checks. Some organizations go as far to train such people to be mandated reporters. Do we really need to penalize such entities for that?
Is SB 131 really about protecting children by bringing those who commit or cover up such horrible crimes to justice, or are the union leaders and lawyers looking to make even more money by putting a financial strain on the non-profit sector? You be the judge.
Again, for the record, we do not outright oppose this bill, but its legal loopholes need to be brought up for discussion in the court of public opinion.
Protecting our children from the political fiscal fiasco
The madness taking place in Sacramento is a disgrace to democracy. It's time for the people of the State of California follow the example of the what the good folks in Moreno Valley are doing to reclaim their republic. It's now time to rise up against this political corruption that is harming innocent children and their future.
For the record: A previous version of the blog post incorrectly mentioned SB 131 would not extend the statute of limitations for suits against actual criminals based on faulty resource data. Upon further review of the official legislative analysis, the time limits do apply.