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Brown Vetoes ‘Imperfect’ Teacher Discipline Bill

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(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday vetoed what he termed an “imperfect” union-backed bill intended to streamline the dismissal of teachers accused of misconduct, calling on lawmakers to try again next year.

The bill, AB375 by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, was approved by lawmakers a year after a more stringent measure died in the state Assembly after opposition by the state’s main teachers union.

Both measures responded to last year’s arrest of a Los Angeles elementary school teacher who was charged with nearly two-dozen counts of engaging in lewd conduct with students, including allegations that he blindfolded his students and fed them his semen in what he described as a tasting game.

Former Miramonte third-grade teacher Mark Berndt has pleaded not guilty. The Los Angeles Unified School District fired him but then paid him $40,000 to drop his appeal of the dismissal.

Parents of some of the children in his classes over the years have filed lawsuits against the Los Angeles Unified School District, claiming Miramonte and district administrators ignored complaints about improper behavior by Berndt dating back more than a decade. One such lawsuit, filed in July 2012, says the district had a continuing “culture of silence” regarding teacher misconduct.

Brown applauded some of the proposed changes in Buchanan’s bill, including provisions that would let school districts file disciplinary complaints during summer recesses and eliminate some other hurdles that can delay discipline and dismissals. But he said in a veto message that other portions of the bill, which was supported by the California Teachers Association, “make the process too rigid and could create new problems.”

Provisions that would limit testimony in disciplinary hearings and prevent school districts from amending complaints based on new evidence “may do more harm than good,” he said. He called the latest attempt “an imperfect solution” that needs more work to produce a balanced but simplified disciplinary process.

The measure was among several education bills signed or vetoed by the governor as he works toward a Sunday deadline for acting on legislation sent to him by lawmakers last month.

He signed bills to discourage school violence and cyberbullying by students. Another responded to the Penn State child molestation scandal that adds private schools to the list of those requiring background checks for employees who work with minors.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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