L.A. Unified Board Orders of Review Sexual Harassment Policies

December 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Unified School District board members voted Tuesday to review the District’s sexual harassment policies and to immediately implement “best practice” procedures aimed at protecting employees.

Acing on a resolution introduced by Board Vice President Nick Melvoin, L.A. Unified will immediately set up a hotline for reporting, conduct a comprehensive review of current policies, and implement a centralized tracking system for complaints.

Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Nick Melvoin

Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Nick Melvoin

“The recent exposure across the country of a pervasive culture of work-related sexual harassment, assault, and inappropriate behavior across several industries was the impetus” for Melvoin’s resolution, according to a statement released by L.A. Unified.

“Sexual harassment has no place in L.A. Unified,” said Melvoin, who began his career as an L.A. Unified teacher in Watts. “Every one of our employees should have the utmost confidence that a harassment claim will be thoroughly investigated and addressed so that our schools are safe spaces—not only for kids, but for our teachers and employees as well.”

School Board President Mónica García, who co-sponsored the resolution, said the school board is dedicated to ensuring a culture of respect and accountability for all employees.

“L.A. Unified can learn, too. We can and must continue to exercise respect for all,” García said. “We must build a culture of learning and excellence that requires all individuals to be part of the solution.”

Commissioner Maryam Zar from the Los Angeles City’s Commission on the Status of Women spoke in support of Melvoin’s resolution. She said creating a hotline and a central system to track complaints will help make sure women newly empowered to share their experiences are heard and feel supported. Zar is also a parent of three L.A. Unified students.

Multiple experts point to a reporting hotline as “the most effective method for prevention, victim support, and accountability.” The District said it hopes to have the hotline up and running by Jan. 2.

Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia

Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia

The Superintendent’s office, with the help of internal and external experts and advocates, will conduct a review of District policies and report back to the board within 120 days.

Its report should include the number of complaints reported in the past five years school- and district-wide; timelines for victims to report their claims and investigators to investigate; and guidelines, tools, and resources for best practices in harassment prevention, investigation, treatment of victims, tracking of harassment claims, and anti-retaliation protections for victims and whistleblowers.

Melodie Kruspodin, Prevention and Policy Manager of Peace over Violence, said sexual harassment is pervasiveness and detrimental.

“Ninety percent of women in California have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime,” she said. “We all need to look inward to codify the values that we wish to model for students in L.A. Unified.”



LA Unified Selects First Black Woman to Lead District

January 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Unified School District Deputy Superintendent Michelle King was named today the district’s next superintendent.

“What a historic moment this is,” LAUSD board President Steven Zimmer said. “A daughter of our city, a student and graduate of LAUSD, a teacher from our schools, a principal from our system, a leader of our community will now take the helm with us together to lead this district, our schools and our community for breakthroughs in public education for the students that need us
the most.”

King, 54, has been with the district for 31 years as a teacher and administrator. She is the first woman to lead the district in more than 80 years and the first black woman to ever lead the nation’s second-largest district.

“I am honored and proud to be selected as the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District,” King said. “I again want to thank the Board of Education for their confidence and support in allowing me to lead the students, employees and families of this incredible district.”
She said as the first black woman to lead the district, she wants to “inspire students of all races and backgrounds to pursue their dreams by demonstrating what is possible in L.A. Unified.”
King said she plans to expand efforts to engage parents, LAUSD unions and other stakeholders to take an active effort in moving the district forward, and “create new pathways for all students and give them the tools they need to succeed.”

The board is expected to finalize her contract at its meeting Tuesday. The selection of King was unanimous.
Superintendent Ramon Cortines retired from day-to-day operations of the district in December, and officially stepped aside Jan. 2. The board has been conducting a search for a replacement since August, while King has been serving as the interim leader of the district since Cortines stepped aside.

According to the district, King attended Century Park and Windsor Hills elementary schools and Palms Junior High School. She graduated from Palisades High School and attended UCLA.

She began her teaching career at Porter Middle School in Granada Hills, teaching math and science, before becoming the math, science and aerospace coordinator at Wright Middle School in Westchester. She later served as assistant principal and principal at Hamilton High School in Cheviot Hills.

She served as Cortines’ chief of staff during his previous administration, then as a deputy under Superintendent John Deasy and again under Cortines following Deasy’s departure.

School Closure: Better Safe Than Sorry?

December 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s decision to close all its schools Tuesday in response to a terrorist threat directed at unspecified but multiple campuses was unprecedented, it was also the right thing to do.

It’s easy to criticize when you don’t have to make the decision, or with the benefit of new information, but in our view, Superintendent Ray Cortines’ instinct to protect students, faculty and school employees first than investigate deeper was right on.

The fact that New York officials facing a similar threat decided to keep their schools open should in no way discredit the action taken by LA Unified. Their decision was based on what they knew and when they knew it, and unlike Cortines, with the knowledge that the same threat had been made to another school district: LA Unified.

Let’s face it, recent terrorist events have us all at least a little on edge. Grandiose statements by politicians that we should not be ruled by fear may sound good, but the words are of little comfort to parents concerned about their child’s safety.

We can only imagine how angry parents would be to find out there was a threat but the district did nothing.

The email may have turned out to be a hoax, but that should not mean that the experience was a waste of time and money. It should be looked at as an unexpected, but valuable learning opportunity for the world we live in now.

The information garnered from the district’s response to the threat should now be looked at with a critical lens to identify where district systems and employees performed well and where they failed. Did the robocalls do their job? Did everyone get the call or information? If not, why not?

What if it there had been explosives in the school, would the actions taken have resulted in saving lives?

And lest we forget, the threat of terrorism is not the only danger we live with today. There are threats of nature, like earthquakes and powerful El Nino storms that could cause wide-scale destruction, forcing school closures. Are the emergency notification systems the district has in place sufficient, or do they need to be honed and improved?

These are all questions that should be answered and shared with the public.

So, while we believe LA Unified did the right thing when it closed schools Tuesday, the true test of their success will be what they do with that they have learned.

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