By Serene Branson

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — LAUSD teachers call it “teacher jail”. It’s where they go if they are accused of inappropriate contact or a crime. There they sit in room or even at home continuing to get paid, while they wait for their accusations to be resolved. Our investigation found that it is costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

“The crime is the accusation. Innocence or guilt has nothing to do with it. You’re accused, you’re going to go through the system,” said a veteran teacher who for more than two has been getting paid not to teach.

“The district, who is laying teachers off is paying double salaries. They pay those teachers their normal salary to sit in a room and do nothing while they have to pay a substitute to teach their class.”

Fearing retaliation from the LAUSD, the teacher we spoke with, facing accusations from a former female student, did not want to reveal his identity.

The D.A. dropped the case against him, but the district then started its own investigation. It has been going on for years despite a policy that states it should have been resolved within 120 days. In the meantime he is in what he and his colleagues call “teacher jail” where currently 141 LAUSD teachers sit, waiting for allegations — large and small — to be resolved.

“There is a teacher, who was accused of a ridiculous accusation — a 35-year teacher. The student wrote a letter, ‘I lied. I was mad. I lied.’ After that letter was submitted to the district, the teacher was in teacher jail two more years… Once you’re accused the witch-hunt begins,” the teacher said.

There are eight district offices scattered throughout the county; each has a designated room for what the district calls “housed teachers”. Teachers said they check-in in the morning and check-out in the afternoon. They are not supposed to bring a cell phone or a laptop and they are only allowed to read educational material.

“These are professionals that are in a stark room for seven hours a day. That mountain of goodness and sacrifice, what does that amount to now? And that’s why teacher jail is so doggone depressing.”

We were granted access to the room for “housed” employees in the downtown headquarters. It was an empty room with two rows of desks and chairs at opposite walls — like a place you would sit to take a written driving exam at the DMV.

“It’s really less than one half of one percent of certificated workforce that is housed,” said LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist.

The district says it expects to spend a staggering $9 million of taxpayer money in salaries and legal costs on these teachers this year; about two-thirds continue to get full salary, some for several years. We asked what takes so long.

“Our goal, and we have policy at this point, is to conduct an investigation within 30 days and make a determination within 120, of whether or not we’re going to move them towards dismissal or whether or not we will to provide other forms of disciplinary or return to them to the work site,” Holmquist said.

But we spoke with one who has been housed for two and a half years.

“None of us want to see that happen,” Holmquist said.

But according to the district’s own records, 100 of the 141 teachers currently out of the classroom have been there longer than 120 days. Holmquist places the blame on law enforcement.

“One of the reasons why we don’t always achieve this is law enforcement does one-third of investigations that we do, so they may take a year or more,” Holmquist said.

We went to United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy to ask what is being done about the lengthy stays. He said they are trying to keep pressure on the district to move things along.

“If we do things in a quick, expeditious way, we get teachers either out of the profession if they are proven guilty of doing something that is immoral or illegal. If not, put them back in the classrooms.” Duffy said.

The district came under fire three years ago after Assistant Principal Steven Thomas Rooney was convicted of molesting students. The district simply shuffled him to different schools instead of removing him from campus.

Holmquist said that since then they have formed a four-person team dedicated to allegations.

“For us the biggest determinate is the safety of our students. If allegations are brought that we feel in any way might put a student at risk, we’re going to err on side of protecting students,” Holmquist said.

“What has happened in L.A. Unified is they’ve been burned, which was completely their fault,” the housed teacher said adding, “What the district has done is thrown the baby out with the bath water.”

For this teacher — a father and grandfather — no matter what happens, he said, for the half who have return to school, it has ruined reputations and tainted passion for teaching.

“After they have demeaned you ruined reputation, embarrassed you to your family, your friends, your colleagues, after they have grinded you and sapped you of whatever life you’ hoped to have. It’s indescribable, the torturous condition these professional people who have dedicated their lives to serving the school district and the kids and treated worse than a criminal.”

The teacher we spoke with said he was recently told to continue time at home while the district continued to investigate his case.

To put in perspective, these “teacher jails” are not just L.A. In San Francisco teachers are reassigned to clerical work, but the contract with LAUSD prohibits that. New York unified recently revamped their policy for rubber rooms, where teachers cannot be kept longer than 90 days.

Serene Branson

Comments (26)
  1. steve says:

    wow an article about teachers that is honest.

  2. Lou says:

    sitting idly? lakers Luke waton sits on a bench waving a towel hand clapping for 7 million dollars, no reporting on that.

    1. Erinn Lucas says:

      Seriously? You are comparing a man who is paid by a privately held company to man who is getting paid by our tax dollars? Do you even know what it is you are saying? Another case of the mocking bird mouth getting ahead of the humming bird brain.

  3. Jethrie Smith says:

    I was with the LAUSD for over 10 years. I was a supervisor for 6 years, I had attendance awards for 5 years of excellent attendance. I worked hard every day of those 10 years until one day… One day at the beginning of my shift I was greeted at my school campus by my supervisors who advised me that ” someone has made an allegation about you” They refused to tell me what the allegation was nor whom was making the allegation. This went on for 10 days before they ever explained that a teacher whom I had met during my duties had claimed that I was pestering her for dates and harrassing her.. The truth was far from this, it was in fact the other way around. Regardless the district relocated me to several other school sites and during that time i was permanently injured on the job while working at an unfamiliar campus. I blame them all for my injury. They left me in limbo for a few months and then after they had lambasted me in front of all my staff they allowed me to go back to my school as if nothing happened.

    This is common policy so live with it. LAUSD is a trash heap since I left. They maybe sweep a class once a week if at all.

    I have a much better career now that’s far more rewarding and hey the people i work with are great!

    1. MissDeed says:

      Yes, you are going easy on them in light if the lies they tell.

  4. null says:

    If they ever got anything done, they would have nothing to do.

  5. Lou says:

    Teaching is a low paying low image profession, worse yet, get paid one day a month.

  6. Lou says:

    Before i go why no stories on LA city council, $179k per, cola, perks, furnished car, paid medical, inundated with double dippers makinf $500k per year.

    1. Saber 1 says:

      Lou, it seems like your a product of the LAUSD. I is always capitalized.

      1. Karen says:

        So are you, Saber 1. It should be “you’re” a product of LAUSD. you’re = you are your = something that belongs to you

  7. Tom Fordyce says:

    I think i know who this teacher is..
    It’s just bad how teachers that get accused of stuff they did not commit get their careers ruined by students or colleagues that dont like them. That is that good and they should be the ones suffering not the hard working teacher that are accused of stuff they did not commit.

  8. Dorothy says:

    Great Reporting except it is not eight local district locations it is at least nine nd maybe more. Let us not forget the great and powerful PLAS. – the (Mayor’s) Partnership of Los Angeles Schools where thirteen more teachers and tax dollars are sitting.

  9. BIG ED says:

    Cinco de Mayo is a celebration holiday my students and I would be acknowledging and enjoying, both historically and sociologically were I allowed to provide the quality instructional environment I have done annually. Instead, I am using my 22 years of training, skills, and experience to sit with a cadre of other teachers gazing into out computers, pondering the stupidity and inequity of this situation, and wasting the taxpayers money because critically important individuals who should do more to expediently resolve these issues neglect to do so.

    I’ve been a teacher of the year, a graduate with distinction fellow, possessor of three credentials, two certifications in linguistic pedagogy, a masters of science in counseling with a specialization in career counseling, a Los Angeles County Bravo award recipient for infusing arts in general education curriculum, a school club sponsor, a college matriculation technician, a National Board for Professional Teaching Certified facilitator,and AP and Honors instructor school based management member, employment at all five local universities in the L.A. area, a community colleges program mentor, and a dedication to the welfare of families and community organizations to advance our educated citizenry. All these achievements are meaningless when mean people make groundless decisions that inevitably most impact our students.

    Law enforcement found no grounds for the accusations stated against me. The district continues their “investigations” with bias, partiality, vindictiveness, and apathetic regard for those of us in this ridiculous predicament, and worse for the students we generously serve daily in our instructional program, they are the victims of a disrupted academic continuum in their learning experience. Parents are powerless to do anything about it. Supportive teachers are afraid of retribution, and other administrator who could make a difference fear the same consequences. something must be done ~ what?! Equity should be the law, our rights are violated and ignored. Deasy, Brown, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ~ policy makers, concerned citizens ~ PLEASE ~ somebody do something that is justice based and righteously achieved.

  10. David says:

    At Ld5 there is an administrator who was actually convicted in court for not protecting
    Students at his former school, he was not re-assigned instead he was promoted to supervise
    Other administrators…

  11. Sleep Deprived says:

    Cannot claim the pedigree of Big Ed but we were in the same boat.
    I spent 22 months as a housed teacher. I was instructed to not have communication with administration, staff, students or school community.
    It was 9 months before I had the 1st official meeting with a principal to learn of why I was removed from my school of 22 years.
    It was another 9 months before another meeting where I was told disciplinary action was to be taken against me.
    In 4 months I was actually dismissed – dismissed! Corcoran State prisoners have more rights.
    Yes, I have to wait until December for a 3 person panel hearing and I am going to spend $30-50,000 to get to the bottom of the mess. I expect to win reinstatement. If I find one (1) falsification in the accusations against me I will then sue the LAUSD..

    1. MissDEed says:

      Sleep Deprived. I am wondering how it went
      I am not very optimistic, the only teachers who get a break are guity. As all this was happening with miramonte ES it dawned on me that this is re emptive .nthey don’t care about students. They care about law suits and keeping up appearances. Anyway, we have a class action and lawyers willing to do the case on contingency.

  12. Daniel Kolodziej, Esq. says:

    To all the dedicated teachers of LAUSD:

    If you are in this position, particularly if you are being asked to resign or are being subjected to dismissal or other disciplinary proceedings, please know that you have the right to legal counsel before you make any decisions affecting your career. Know your rights and contact Trygstad Schwab & Trygstad ( (310) 552-0500 ) for representation or another qualified legal counsel.

    Best Regards to you and your committment to the great profession of teaching.

    Daniel Kolodziej, Esq.
    Attorney at Law
    Trygstad Schwab & Trygstad
    (310) 552-0500

    1. BIG ED says:

      Very nice comment Mr. Kolodziej; surely we wish there was more you could actually do to stop the mistreatment before it becomes a costly matter that involves your legal counsel. However, we do appreciate your business solicitation for those of us unaware of our professional options which you can best clarify once a retainer fee has been paid. BIG ED

  13. Sleep Deprived says:

    Let us not discount the LAUSD totally outflanked the UTLA on this one. All those dues for all those years are useless for the housed teachers.

    1. pam mills says:

      I totally agree!!! My friends ask me(non teacher friends) where is your union????? They should be helping you.

  14. John L says:

    It is a scholastic conspiracy to extract several millions of dollars from the governement at the expense of innocent old and veteran teachers.

  15. Wonderer says:

    hundreds of teachers were wildly accused and investigated by lawyers of LAUSD but no one was found guilty and no one was ever dismissed from those accusations. Several millions were spent by LAUSD in these wasteful investigations. Do you who got the several million dollars?

    1. Misdeed says:

      The lawyers and all the overpaid, unnecessary thugs at Lausd get it l of course.

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