The Los Angeles Unified School District (district) is among the largest school districts in the nation, and it is the largest in California, serving the city of Los Angeles and all or part of 31 smaller cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. As of July 2014 the district employed more than 59,000 people— roughly 27,000 of whom are teachers—to educate more than 600,000 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade.
In November 2012 the California State Auditor (state auditor) issued a report titled Los Angeles Unified School District: It Could Do More to Improve Its Handling of Child Abuse Allegations, Report 2012‑103 (2012 audit). The 2012 audit noted that the district did not always report to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (commission) in a timely manner when teachers engaged in reportable misconduct, including misconduct against students. As a result of these delays, the commission was not able to determine promptly whether it was appropriate to revoke teaching credentials and thus prevent individuals from working in other school districts. The 2012 audit made three recommendations to the district to improve the district’s reporting to the commission. Our follow‑up audit evaluated whether the district has implemented our recommendations and improved the timeliness of its reporting to the commission.
State Law and District Policy Requirements for Investigating and Reporting Misconduct
District policies include detailed procedures for reporting on, investigating, notifying, and reassigning district staff accused of misconduct, including allegations of abuse involving students. When the district receives an allegation of child abuse against one of its employees, it must first notify local law enforcement and then wait until law enforcement gives it permission to proceed before it conducts an administrative investigation. District administrators, such as school principals, are generally responsible for conducting administrative investigations in cases in which the employees have not been reassigned from their work sites. However, for complex investigations involving allegations of sexual misconduct, district policy requires that a specific unit called the Student Safety Investigation Team (investigation team) conduct the investigations.1 The investigation team began operating in January 2014 and consists of investigative and administrative staff from the district’s central office. The district created the investigation team in order to have a professionally trained team of investigators take the lead in investigating allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct and also assist administrators with conducting investigations thoroughly and in a timely manner. Depending on the results of an investigation, the district may impose some form of discipline on the employee, including initiating the dismissal process.
State law and regulations also require the district to report to the commission any certificated employee who is alleged to have committed misconduct involving a student or whose change of employment status is final through resignation, dismissal, or settlement with a school district as a result of an allegation of misconduct or while an allegation is pending. The term misconduct applies to a wide range of unprofessional activities and sex offenses. The commission uses these reports to review an employee’s case and to suspend or revoke his or her teaching credential, as necessary. If the commission revokes an individual’s credential, that individual cannot obtain a public teaching position in California.
Scope and Methodology
California Government Code, Section 8546.1(d), authorizes the state auditor to conduct additional follow‑up audit work on statutorily mandated or legislatively requested financial and performance audits. The 2012 audit was requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. In May 2015 the state auditor initiated a follow‑up audit to evaluate the status of the three recommendations made to the district in the 2012 audit. Table 1 lists the three objectives of our follow‑up audit and our methods for addressing them.
|1||Determine whether the Los Angeles Unified School District (district) is appropriately reporting allegations of misconduct to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (commission).||
|2||Determine whether the district has increased its oversight of open allegations of employee abuse against students, and, to the extent possible, assess whether the district’s increased oversight has resulted in a more efficient disciplinary process.||We performed the following actions:
|3||Determine whether the district’s new settlement‑tracking mechanism is working as intended.||We identified 50 settlements between October 2013 and April 2015 and verified the accuracy of the district’s settlement‑tracking system. We also obtained the district’s policies and procedures regarding the tracking system and interviewed management within the district’s legal office regarding how the system is being used.|
Sources: California State Auditor’s determination of the audit objectives for this follow-up audit and information and documentation identified in the table column titled Method.
Assessment of Data Reliability
The U.S. Government Accountability Office, whose standards we are statutorily required to follow, requires us to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of computer‑processed information that is used to support our findings, conclusions, or recommendations. Because of the limited nature of this follow‑up audit, we did not conduct a data reliability assessment on the district’s commission notification database, the investigation team’s tracking spreadsheet, or the settlement‑tracking database maintained by the district’s office of the general counsel. Nevertheless, we believe the evidence we obtained during the audit is sufficient and appropriate to support our conclusions.
1 In July 2015 the investigation team also began investigating all allegations of nonsexual misconduct in which employees are reassigned away from their school sites. Go back to text