Monday, December 24, 2012

LAUSD’s Teacher Jail

"The Actual Trials of Joseph K"

(Joseph K. is a 25-year veteran of LAUSD, a former mentor teacher twice named a Johns Hopkins University Teaching Fellow, who now teaches poor, inner-city children who wake up every morning in their gang-ridden, drug-infested neighborhoods at five a.m. to catch the bus by six. He teaches the old-fashioned way –by ignoring standardized test scores. Instead of teaching bubbling, he tries to instill a love of knowledge and learning in his students and for this reason will probably be allowed to continue teaching for fifteen more minutes.)

-my original "bio" written eighteen months ago.

Who knew that when I originally said I'd be allowed to teach for fifteen more minutes I literally meant FIFTEEN MORE MINUTES! Poof. Your 27-year career is quite likely over. You have been blacklisted in the greatest blacklist since the last great Blacklist of Joseph McCarthy. Displaced teachers have been blacklisted too, but most of them don’t yet know it. Either that, or they are living in denial. Nobody wants a “failed teacher" and LAUSD has already constructed its conveyor belt for their way out as well.

There has been some talk, lately, of Deasy’s ever-gowing Guantanamo Bay, his Made-in-America Gulag for teachers. They are sometimes called “rubber rooms”, an ignominious term first coined in New York City.

First of all, there are no "rubber rooms" in LA Unified, though LAUSD's prison blocks are designed to drive teachers insane. Rubber rooms are designed to house people already insane. They are lined with rubber to protect extremely sick individuals from hurting themselves. Rubber rooms, for all their perversity, connote an element of concern for the patient. They keep the patient safe. There is no such concern for teachers in LAUSD. Deasy doesn’t care about teachers. He grabbed 85 teachers by the scruffs of their necks and stuffed them into a broom closet, then locked the key to the closet for six months because of Miramonte. Since when do you hide behind the veil of “student safety" to grab teachers by the scruffs of their necks, let alone stuff them in a broom closet? Deasy’s LAUSD has "teacher jails" instead of rubber rooms and these jails are not lined with rubber; they are lined with nails. They are designed to torture, punish, and humiliate their victims. They are designed to rob them of their spirit, their humanity, deprive them of what they love most in the world after caring for their families (which is caring for their students) and make their lives so miserable they eventually quit and go away.

That is the goal. By any means necessary, just quit and go away.

If you quit and go away, it will be like nothing ever happened. You never really did anything wrong in the first place, but we forgive you.

Teachers are left to rot, many for years, often without even being told the nature of the complaints against them, let alone being shown any evidence, let alone any credible evidence. LAUSD has jailed so many teachers that the South ESC alone runs three shifts a day. Prisoners are assigned a morning, "swing", or afternoon shift. The West Area runs two shifts. Beaudry operates three separate jail cells, one for administrators, one for teachers, and one for classified staff. I can only speak for teachers. I can only imagine what they are doing in East LA and The Valley where there are two. In the South, teachers serve two hours. In the West, it is three. At Beaudry, it is six, though some are allowed to leave at mid-day seemingly without rhyme or reason. All are paid a full day.

But the rest of the time is not theirs. They must stay locked at home under virtual house arrest and if ever they are caught straying for any reason are threatened with being instantly fired. LAUSD argues "they are doing no harm" because prisoners are being paid. Robbing a person of their humanity, their dignity, their hard-earned professional and personal reputation, their passion in life does quite a bit of harm. Losing your reason to wake up in the morning hurts.There is more to life than money. There is having a sense your life has purpose. Teacher jails take that all away. The harm is immeasurable. Teacher jails make you sick. Just thinking about it makes me sick. It should make you sick too.

LAUSD knows exactly what it is doing. So does the LA Times. I’ve told them the story. At least eight of their journalists know the story, because I personally have told them. They turn a blind eye. I can only surmise they rely on the same corporate money as Deasy, whether it be Eli Broad or Bill Gates. What kind of newspaper turns a blind eye to a modern and growing Gulag network of teachers in the second largest city in the United States of America?

The same newspaper that completely ignored Deasy’s scandalous PhD., a degree he supposedly earned in four months with nine units and a dissertation dated May 2003. He didn’t even enter his four-month program at the University of Louisville until January of 2004. Dean Robert Felner granted Deasy his degree after receiving $375,000 of Santa Monica School District money directly from Deasy while he was superintendent at the beach. Felner awarded the nine unit degree in April of 2004, then received a “no confidence vote” in 2006. Deasy bailed out unexpectedly from his superintendent’s position in Prince George’s County just weeks before the scandal broke and his career would have lay in ruins had he not been pulled from the depths by the Gates Foundation which, in a September 30, 2008 press release, made no mention of the PhD.

Just in case.

Felner stayed busy first by misappropriating a $649,000 federal grant, then sticking with a system that seemed to be working, he was eventually convicted of stealing $2.3 million in federal grants. For a while he was doing real well for himself. But eventually he had to pay back Louisville $51,000 and the University of Rhode Island $1.3 million. His conviction included fraud at other universities as well. He was sentenced to 63 months on May 17, 2010. 

Exactly seven months later, January 11, 2010, Deasy was named LAUSD’s Superintendent with a 6-0 vote by a Board of Education who had not bothered with an interview, much less a national search. As Gates’ and Broad’s quid pro quo, he’d been the assistant only since August, a scant two months after Felner’s conviction. You doubt the quid pro quo? Superintendent Cortines had to immediately move out of his large corner office to make room for his “deputy.” Why should Deasy have to go to all that bother of changing offices twice? Where is Deasy’s dissertation? No one has seen it. He still refuses to show it. Why didn’t  the LA Times ask for it? Eli Broad perhaps? Deasy is Broad’s lap dog after mastering Broad’s Nazi-Style Leadership at his Broad’s Academy. The connections will make you puke. Brace yourself. He’s wanted the LA Times at least since 2007 when he failed to purchase its parent company which is now insolvent and thus a MUCH better deal now than before. Eli Broad seems to want the LA Times as badly as the LA Times wants (and needs) Eli Broad. He gets Deasy too? Broad sees the currently belabored paper as the deal of the Century. He wishes to become the Rupert Murdoch of Los Angeles. Perhaps he aspires to BE Rupert Murdock. I don't know.

LAUSD bought the notoriously dilapidated Beaudry Building (winner of two downtown lemon awards) and an endless litany of structural problems for $33 million from Eli Broad and others, despite its needing an astounding $121 million to make it at least habitable and hopefully not downright dangerous. The floor, for example? It didn’t work. Not one of them worked. And Beaudry had 29 of them. Then-Deputy Cortines called it atrocious. In 2003, the LA County District Attorney’s major fraud division investigated the purchase for overpayment to investors. A federal grand jury followed in 2004. Eli Broad knows something about jails and convicts too. His pal and business partner Bruce Karatz was convicted of four felony charges and faced 80 years. He was extremely lucky. He was acquitted of 16 others.

The only difference between LAUSD’s Teacher Jail Prisoners and Deasy and Broad’s convict friends is Broad and Deasy's friends have been convicted. Deasy’s prisoners share no such luxury. Teachers in Deasy’s teacher jails have only been accused. That is literally all it takes: An accusation. Witnesses? Nope. Don’t need those. Common sense? Not necessarily. In fact, let’s go right out and say it. Common sense? Not at all. Many, including me, have been completely acquitted. Still we sit.  Last year, I sat next to a teacher who'd been jailed for years. The accusation was an anonymous email and described a supposed “inappropriate” event ten years in the past. The accusation was traced to a computer at school. The accuser was never found. More astonishing, though, is that after a thorough investigation, LAUSD could not even find a victim. It could not find any witnesses. All it could find was that accusation. And that accusation just wouldn't go away. Accusations cannot be ignored. The district never issued a formal accusation. It never made any attempt at enforcing discipline. How could it? LAUSD never communicated with that teacher in any way. So the teacher just sat.

For years.

He kept hoping the school district would fire him. Then he could sue for wrongful termination. They never did. Eventually he retired, LAUSD's goal all along.

Quit or retire.

Teachers must "do work commensurate with their duties" yet they have no duties. They are denied the Internet which right off the bat eliminates a rather large number of commensurate duties. We do, after all, live in the 21st Century. Not in Teacher Jail. In Teacher Jail, the Stone Age is good enough. Prisoners might start emailing their lawyers or something. Could risk exposure. Nope, we can’t have that. Denying teachers the Internet is to cut them off from LAUSD’s own email. You can’t look at it when you are home. “You are to be assigned no duties when you are at home.” The first thing they told us in Teacher Jail back in August was that we were to be assigned no duties while at home. I raised my hand and asked, “How are we supposed to do the District’s required on-line suspected child abuse reporting (SCAR) training program?” 

She said, “Oh, you can just do that while you are at home.” 

"But didn’t you just say….?” 

Rhyme or reason? Not when they are just making all this up as they go. They keep changing what they are doing. I was sent home for three days, the three days before all the lying set in. Then I was ignored and tortured for seven school days. I was not assigned to teacher jail. I hadn't done anything. I was forced to sit like a dog in a lobby. But on the seventh day, I discovered the teacher jail. They discovered me discovering the prisoners. That sealed my fate. Within half an hour of them seeing a prisoner come over to talk to me, I was assigned to teacher jail retroactively if you can believe that. They could not let me escape. I "knew too much." And they had to cover up seven days of their torture. Now teachers come straight to prison. They have kind-of-a deer-in-the-headlights look. They don’t know what’s hit them. They have no idea what they have allegedly done. They are cooked and don’t know it.How on earth can you deny professional educators in 2012/13 access to the Internet? Where are we, Aparthied South Africa? Are we in the old Burma, er, make that Myanmar? This is what we are doing to professional educators who in many cases have done nothing wrong. Guilt or innocence pale in comparison to the omnipotent accusation. Teachers are told to do work with no work to do. They are provided no materials. "Bring your own," I was told. But all my materials are still in my classroom. I am banned from my classroom. I am banned from the entire school. I am banned from all district property.

Except for jail.

At the end of the day, you are expressly told, “Do not linger.”

At Beaudry you must spend every minute of your work time working, at least in the beginning. And to do this work, you must be facing your little cubicle. Your eyes cannot stray. Everywhere in the world, teachers collaborate. But not in teacher jail. In teacher jail, collaboration is banned. If you collaborate, if you communicate in any way, you are punished --sometimes severely. No talking. No talking at all, though now I’ve heard they’ve eased up somewhat. It's like the old South African jails.

In some of the teacher jails, prisoners are forced to wear special badges marking them as prisoners, Deasy's version of Hitler's yellow stars.

The three shifts in the South and the two in the West are usually not because of space. In the West, prisoners sit in a room large enough to accommodate both shifts. The two shifts, then, are about power and not space. To conduct an illegal, immoral operation you need to maintain power. You do this by instilling fear in individuals, destroying their humanity, and keeping them isolated. Isolation is the key. An isolated teacher is a powerless teacher. In my cell last year we were free to talk, though we were not supposed to discuss our cases. I sat with one of the smartest men I've ever known, a teacher with National Board Certification in Mathematics. Do you know how rare a teacher like this is? We can't even find teachers credentialed to teach Algebra. Here is a man with National Board Certification. You want to talk child abuse? How about this? Take the best and the brightest students a high school has to offer. Take those who have worked their tails off to reach Calculus, Analytic Geometry, Trigonometry, Math Analysis while still in high school. Take a lifetime of hard work those students have applied. And then take away their teacher because of student scurrilousness. Supply instead a substitute who can't even do algebra, or a string of substitutes, perhaps a French Literature major in his place. You want to talk child abuse? THAT is child abuse. All that hard work for nothing. A year wasted for those students. 

That, my friends, is child abuse.

All modesty aside, we were the two smartest people in the room. Three of us rivaled each other in chess, the third I just mentioned who retired. We combined our knowledge. We shared that knowledge. We communicated that knowledge to other teachers. How best should we fight this district? This year we were separated to two different shifts. They inserted half an hour between shifts so we would not even see each other. Coincidence? I think not. “Do not linger.”

In the Valley they are imprisoning so many of teachers, they are exempting many of them from jail entirely. Don’t let anyone see anyone. Power and powerlessness. These people do not know each other. How do they even contact each other? Especially with no UTLA.

And then shoot them like ducks, one by one, two my two, or three by three.

Until all the senior teachers are extinct.

If we’ve done something, then just fire us today. Why do we sit? Either we did or we didn’t. Make a decision and we’ll demand our appeal and have a right to one within 60 days. LAUSD always delays. It takes years to fire a teacher? That’s because LAUSD makes it that way. Delay, delay, delay. It is in their interest to exhaust and starve the teacher. It is a very effective strategy. Difficult to fight. Sooner or later we all get tired and hungry.

So far none have won. All but two settled last year. Two fought. Both lost.

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