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Senate OKs Bill Easing Firings For Teacher Abuse

SACRAMENTO (AP) — The state Senate on Monday passed a bill making it easier to fire teachers accused of sex abuse, child abuse or serious drug crimes.

Senators unanimously passed AB215 on a 33-0 vote. The bill by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, creates a separate hearing process for teachers who are charged with egregious misconduct.

It also requires school districts to hold a hearing within six months if a teacher appeals and requires the hearing to be concluded within seven months.

The bill was the result of a compromise after previous legislative efforts to speed up the disciplinary process failed.

The bill was presented by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who sought changes after longtime Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt was arrested in 2012 for lewd acts including spoon-feeding students his semen. Berndt was given a 25-year sentence after pleading no contest to 23 counts in November.

Padilla said the changes to the current dismissal process are necessary because some cases drag on, costing school districts money. The bill has support from the California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union, and EdVoice, an education reform group.

"We do think this is a comprehensive and balanced and much-needed reform to the dismissal process" for the most egregious cases, Padilla said.

The bill now moves to the Assembly.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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