After being exposed by CNN, and locally by Santa Barbara View, for an abstention vote on a bill that would have protected students from predatory teachers, Assemblymember Das Williams issues a formal statement to his constituents, below.
The safety of our children is of the utmost importance to me and I think it is important for us to take the legislative process seriously and thoughtfully to ensure that legislation does what it intends to do. Because of this, I spent considerable time reviewing the language and intent of SB 1530 and have worked with the author before it was heard in my committee and since to perfect the language to ensure that it will do what we intend it to do. In fact, I spent as much or more time on the bill as I have on many of my own bills. It is unfortunate that the vote on the bill is being portrayed as union versus the welfare of children or as one in which a Yes vote means keeping sex offenders out of the classroom and a No vote means allowing them to continue to teach. Neither is true.
Specifically, SB 1530 would have made changes to the procedures used for dismissal and suspension proceedings for permanent certificated employees that are dismissed for serious or egregious unprofessional conduct, such as sex offenses; controlled substance offenses; and; child abuse and neglect offenses.
Currently, the process for dismissal of a certified school employee authorizes a school board to suspend the accused and for a hearing to be conducted by a three-person panel, consisting of: a teacher appointed by the accused; a teacher appointed by the school board; and an administrative law judge.
The bill would alter this process by requiring the teacher to have a hearing conducted solely by an administrative law judge who would make a recommendation to the school board, which would be ultimately responsible for the dismissal of the accused.
In reviewing this bill, I felt that the addition of the decision by the school board actually adds an extra step to the dismissal process, making it more timely and costly. However, I did agree with the intention of the bill and many aspects that were included in the original language, such as permitting evidence more than 4 years old to be considered in the dismissal proceedings and allowing dismissal to take place at any time of the year, including summer. To save the intention of the bill, I began working with the author immediately to have the final decision made by a non-elected administrative law judge, as opposed to a body of elected officials that are vulnerable to any number of pressures. I also believed that a school employee, to be selected by the school board, should be included in the process to bring that level of classroom experience into the process. Finally, I thought this bill should be focused on sex crimes. Something so egregious is too important to not be the sole focus of a piece of legislation.
You should know that I did vote in support for a bill, AB 2028, which shortened the process for the dismissal or suspension of teachers for unprofessional conduct or unsatisfactory performance. That bill also would have given school boards more flexibility in such situations. That bill, which was also opposed by the California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers, passed the Education Committee, but failed later in the legislative process.
The claims that I would allow where my support comes from dictate how I cast my vote could not be more false. I receive support from a number of educational groups; such as school administrators, teachers, classified school employees, and charter schools. These groups are often at odds on various issues but support me because of the one thing we all agree is our main priority: the students and ensuring California again has a world-class education system.
That is what you elected me to do and that is what I will continue to do. This means that I will continue to work to pass legislation that will appropriately address the dismissal of school employees that commit horrendous crimes against our students and expect to see new legislation that will appropriately address that issue in the next 5-6 months.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this legislation, feel free to contact my District Office at 805-564-1649.
Das Williams Assemblymember, 35th District