‘Teacher Jail’ Under Fire As Crenshaw High Alum Rally Around Music Teacher
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A practice known as “teacher jail” was under scrutiny Friday as the union representing teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was expected to testify in an unfair labor practice trial.
The Public Employment Relations Board was set to begin hearing testimony on so-called “teacher jails”, a term used to describe what happens when teachers who can’t be fired under union rules go to sit all day after they’re removed from the classroom.
The practice has come under fire most recently after Crenshaw High School music teacher and choir director Iris Stevenson was prevented from being allowed to teach since December following a trip to perform at the White House for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
School officials won’t say why Stevenson – who has been a fixture at Crenshaw High since 1985 - isn’t being allowed to teach, only that the investigation “involves a personnel matter.”
But United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) spokesperson Warren Fletcher told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO it’s time for the school district to change its policies.
“We’re talking about a situation where folks don’t even know what it is they’re accused of, sometimes for months and years, while they sit away from their students and continue to collect a paycheck,” Fletcher said.
Opponents say that teachers assigned to “teacher jail” are confined to a room filled with as many as 130 other teachers and are “arbitrarily placed without due process.”
Alumni rallied Friday morning outside Crenshaw High to support Stevenson, who students say has always been there for her students.
“Without Ms. Stevenson, the opportunities that youth have to get out of our communities and stop seeing the same things would’ve never happened,” said Crenshaw grad Daymon Johnson.
District officials said despite her reassignment, Stevenson remains a full-time LAUSD employee “who is entitled to her regular pay and benefits.”
LAUSD officials also said they were working to restore Stevenson’s name on the Music Building at Crenshaw High after the letters of her name and other building contents were vandalized last summer.