LAUSD Makes It Easier For Parents To Volunteer During A Strike, As Date of Potential Work Stoppage Remains Uncertain

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While the question of whether a strike can legally begin Thursday remains up in the air, the LAUSD Board passed a policy Tuesday to make it easier for parents, guardians and other family members to volunteer at schools during a strike and other emergencies.   

Talks between LAUSD and UTLA are scheduled to resume Wednesday morning after some movement between the two sides Monday. However, a court decided not to hear arguments Tuesday on whether a strike can begin this week, which means that any work stoppage could still be delayed until Monday if no resolution between the two sides is reached. 

Strike preparations, however, are underway, and the Board voted 4-1 Tuesday to allow family members who have been checked against a sex offender database to volunteer -- with a principal’s permission – during times of crisis, without having to get TB tested and fingerprinted, as long as they are supervised at all times by school staff. Board Member Scott Schmerelson (BD3) voted no, and George McKenna (BD1) was absent.

The original plan would also have allowed community members to become so-called “On-Demand Safety Volunteers,” but Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6) amended that plan to include only extended family.

“It’s important to have parent and community members welcomed into our schools,” Gonez said. “But there’s a balance to be had between making sure that those who want to come in will actually be assets to the school community and not a liability to the safety of our students.” 

Schmerelson opposed the policy, saying he was worried that there might be predator parents who are not in the sex offender database. One public speaker also mentioned the liability risk with this new policy and mentioned the amount of money LAUSD has already paid out in sex abuse settlements – more than $300 million.

Board Member Nick Melvoin (BD4), however, pointed out that those abuse settlements, including the largest for the infamous Miramonte elementary case, were paid out because of abuse by LAUSD teachers who had passed background checks – not parents.

In fact, after the Miramonte scandal, the statewide teachers union, CTA, fought against legislation that would have made it easier to fire teachers who sexually abuse students. (It eventually passed anyway.) And just last year, CTA gutted a bill that would have prevented teachers found to have sexually abused children from being able to quietly resign and apply for jobs elsewhere without telling unsuspecting school districts of their prior abuse allegations. 

LAUSD’s new policy would exempt parents from the TB and fingerprinting requirements during times of crisis, and the strike is considered a crisis .

If an agreement is not reached and teachers do strike, “we want to make sure our students have as much access to caring adults as possible, even though it won’t be a regular day with normal instruction,” Gonez said.

But policy changes needed to happen regardless, Gonez said, because the requirements for parents to volunteer were too onerous. In December, LAUSD waived the fee for parents to get fingerprinted and directed the superintendent to create a new policy to make it easier for parent volunteers. “Every time I go to school, this is something parents raise,” she said.

 Aside from the emergency volunteers, the new policy also creates a three-tiered system:

* One-time, single-event volunteers would also be exempted from fingerprinting and TB testing but would still need to be checked against the sex offender database.

* Room parents, classroom and office volunteers can help at schools without getting fingerprinted. They would still need TB tests and a sex offender check.

* Any parent that works one-on-one with a child as a tutor, cafeteria volunteer, overnight field trip chaperone or sports/afterschool activity volunteer would still need fingerprinting and TB testing, as well as a sex offender check.

Meanwhile, the Board Tuesday also passed a resolution to create a three-year plan to generate more funding for LAUSD. The resolution was sponsored by McKenna and Schmerelson, with Melvoin and Gonez signing on as co-sponsors after some anti-charter school language was stripped from the resolution.