[lg policy] Linguistic hygiene: California School District sharpening policies amid Leko scandal

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 12 16:53:47 UTC 2012

District sharpening policies amid Leko scandal
Board members try fine-tuning complaint procedure, code of ethics.

By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil at latimes.com

January 11, 2012 | 4:36 p.m.

Fallout from the Gabrielle Leko scandal continued this week, as the
school board considers requiring La Cañada Unified employees to report
any inappropriate conduct they witness between another employee and a
student. Spurred by complaints that the La Cañada High math teacher
regularly used racist and sexist language in her classroom, officials
presented a modified draft of the district’s code of ethics during a
public meeting Monday.

The board is also looking at possible changes to policies regarding
complaints against district employees. Both will return to the board
for a second reading as early as next month. The modified code of
ethics policy builds on a presentation made by Supt. Wendy Sinnette in
December. In it, she outlined existing board policy for employee
conduct, a two-sentence directive that states that employees must
maintain high standards, follow district regulations and abide by all

The suggested new language is much more explicit, spelling out
unacceptable employee-student interaction including inappropriate
socializing or fraternizing, furnishing tobacco, alcohol or illegal
substances and engaging in child abuse. It also prohibits “harassing
or discriminatory behavior.” It also states that if staff members
become aware of inappropriate behavior, they must report it.

“An employee who observes or has evidence of inappropriate conduct
between another employee and a student shall immediately report such
conduct to the principal or superintendent or designee,” the proposed
policy reads.

The onus would then be on the administrator to investigate, Sinnette said.

“This would provide directives to employees,” Sinnette said. “They
wouldn’t be in a position to take action … but if this came to their
attention, then they would be required to address it with their site

Board member Andrew Blumenfeld questioned whether the modified policy
would conflict with the La Cañada Teachers Assn. code of conduct,
which bars its members from criticizing, or negatively speculating
about, a colleague to management.

But union President Mandy Redfern said that the proposed policy is
consistent with teachers’ obligations.

“What this particular proposal is talking about is inappropriate
conduct with students,” Redfern said. “We all have that obligation
regardless. It doesn’t violate the [union] code of ethics in any way,
shape or form. If we hear a student has been discriminated against or
harassed, or there is socialization or fraternization that is
inappropriate, we’re all obligated to report that.”

Parents also will be on notice that they must follow up on their
complaints if they do not see an issue resolved to their satisfaction.

“Failure to move the complaint forward shall indicate that the
complainant’s issues have been satisfactorily remedied by the
complaint procedure,” the proposed modified policy reads.

Board member Ellen Multari said there seems to be an expectation among
families that school officials will do the follow up.

“Maybe we need to make it clear to the community that [if] we have
given you direction to do something, then [the] onus is now on you to
come back if you are not satisfied with how we resolved the problem,”
Multari said.

Administrators will be directed to keep a copy of the complaint
procedures on their desks to hand out and review with parents,
Sinnette said.

“I really understand the frustration many parents have felt, with not
feeling that they had satisfaction in the resolution, but who would
know that better than that parent; and that parent’s responsibility is
to make that heard,” Sinnette said.


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