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Around Town: Comparing apples and oranges?

March 14, 2012|By Anita S. Brenner

Last week, the La Cañada school board postponed a vote on the district's new teacher complaint policy when it appeared that the board would split 2-2.

Staffer Megan O'Neil reported that the proposed policy “states that the district will not ‘entertain complaints which surface allegations against employees where the complainant has neither directly witnessed the events related to the complaint' or is not the parent or guardian of a student witness.” (Valley Sun 3/8/12, “School board members disagree over complaint process.”)

Imagine the following hypothetical: The little boys have arrived for soccer practice. A couple of boys tell the coach that a teacher blindfolded a female student and played a tasting game. Afterward, the coach talks to the parents talk about this disclosure. The mothers of the two boys who witnessed the event emphatically do not want to report the incident. The other parents and the coach, equally emphatically, do want to report the incident.

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The coach and the parents of the non-witnesses go to the school district.

“Sorry!” says the school district. “Under our policy, you can't file a complaint unless you are the parent or guardian of a student witness.”

The teacher's union agrees. This is a zero sum game for the union. There can only be one winner.

“We need to protect our teachers' due process rights,” says the union.

“But what about the kids?” asks the coach.

“Sorry,” says the union. “The teachers have rights.”

The school board agrees.

“The witnesses and their parents have a right to privacy. Don't bring their names into this if they want to stay out of it,” says the school board.

Let's take it a step further: The little boys do not witness a tasting game. They see an act of sexual intercourse. Their mothers do not want to get involved, but the other parents and the coach rush over to the district.

“Sorry!” says the school district. “Under our policy, you can't file a complaint unless you are the parent or guardian of a student witness.”

They go to local law enforcement, which, of course, begins an investigation.

Imagine another scenario: You arrive at the grocery store. You've known the manager for years. He's not a friend, but a friendly acquaintance. Just before you enter, the soccer coach is exiting.

“Don't buy the apples. One of them is rotten,” he says. “Most of them look good, but I saw Fuji that had a worm coming out if it.”

You rush over to the manager. “Someone told me about a bad apple, you might want to check it out.”

The manager would never tell you, “Sorry, you are not a witness to the rotten apple, so I'm going to ignore what you say!”

The store manager would never turn you away because you are his customer and his job is dependent on service to the customer.

Apples and oranges? Please let me know. Tune in after March 27 for the school board's final vote.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at anitasusan.brenner@yahoo.com and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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