Buchanan's teacher dismissal bill gains support
AB 215 sent to Senate floor for vote
The number of teacher dismissal bills making their way through the Legislature has been reduced to one, and California is one step closer to having an improved dismissal process in place for teachers accused of egregious misconduct.
Assembly Bill 215, by Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, received unanimous support in the Senate Education Committee hearing on April 30. There the bill gained several co-authors, including Senator Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, author of the CSBA-sponsored Senate Bill 843, and Chair of the Education Committee Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge, who authored SB 1164. The two senators have withdrawn their bills and signed on to AB 215, which Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated he will support. The bill passed off the Senate Suspense File on May 23 and was sent to the senate floor, where it will be voted on.
AB 215 follows Buchanan’s AB 375, which CSBA led the successful effort to veto in late 2013. AB 215 goes further than AB 375 did to ensure that students are protected, while remaining fair to teachers, and sets appropriate timelines for evidence discovery and depositions, but it still falls short of adequately streamlining the dismissal process in cases involving teacher conduct that could jeopardize student safety. Because of this flaw, CSBA’s position on AB 215 remains “support if amended.” Specifically, AB 215 should be amended to:
- broaden the definition of “egregious misconduct” to include acts of immoral conduct that involve children or interfere with their safety (for example, acts that may not be illegal but are still inappropriate), as well as allegations related to certain serious and violent felonies and other crimes involving moral turpitude, such as embezzlement or fraud;
- ensure that the seven-hour time limit for depositions may be extended for good cause—especially when deposing expert witnesses and young children; and
- delete the provision that allows an employed teacher who, pending dismissal, is immediately suspended for egregious acts to challenge the suspension; and
- delete the provision that requires the losing party of an appeal to Superior Court to pay attorney fees to the other party
The chief concern with the provision in AB 215 that allows teachers to challenge a suspension is that by creating a new right to appeal, the bill adds complexity and additional cost to the process, which runs contrary to the purpose of this—and any—reform bill. And with a more complex process in place there is a risk of putting students back in contact with teachers who pose a threat to their safety.
“AB 215 is an improvement over AB 375, and in its current form it will do a better job of protecting children than current law,” said Dennis Meyers, CSBA Assistant Executive Director of Governmental Relations. But, he added, “there is room for improvement. We continue to work to make AB 215 a better bill that both tightens the dismissal process and provides greater, needed protection for students.”
If you met with your district assembly member or staff member on last month’s Board Member Action Day and had the opportunity to discuss AB 215—one of our talking points—thank you! You can also start the dialogue now: to find your legislator, visit www.csba.org and look in our Advocacy tools under Legislative Advocacy.
You can follow the progress of AB 215 at CSBA Positions under Advocacy at www.csba.org.