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Two teachers charged in lewd acts
LOS ANGELES — Children returned Thursday to an elementary school where the entire staff was replaced after the arrests of two former teachers on charges of committing lewd acts with students in class.
Hundreds of students streamed through the front doors under the eyes of school police and some 100 protesters, who opposed the disruption of removing everyone from the principal to the custodian for the rest of the school year.
The protesters, who included parents and students at Miramonte Elementary School, held signs bashing the Los Angeles Unified School District, proclaiming "Give us our teachers back," and "LAUSD Shame on You." "No new teachers," children chanted.
"It's kind of hard," said Lorena Soriano, whose sixth-grader attends Miramonte. "You barely know your teacher, and they're gone. The kids don't know what's going on."
The school held an assembly for parents to meet the new principal, but some parents emerged dissatisfied, saying the district went overboard in removing all teachers.
The case of a third-grade teacher accused of feeding children his semen during bizarre tasting games in his classroom over a five-year period has sparked outrage and roiled the nation's second-largest school district.
In an unprecedented move, the district closed the school on Tuesday and Wednesday to completely replace the 120-member staff.
Superintendent John Deasy said the move was necessary to restore trust among parents in the largely poor, Hispanic neighborhood of unincorporated Los Angeles County. He said he will decide whether any of the previous staff will return to Miramonte after the district completes its investigation.
The president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union, said grievances will be filed against the district.
Warren Fletcher told a news conference that some 85 teachers received a notice of administrative transfer on Wednesday.
The notice states that the transfer effective Monday is to a nearby unfinished high school, where the district has said the teachers will be housed and paid while the investigation is ongoing.
The teachers were being "tarred and stigmatized for no reason," Mr. Fletcher said.
He said the district told him none of the teachers will return to Miramonte permanently, but Mr. Deasy said that is not true.
The new staff includes a retired principal, 81 teachers and dozens of support staff who were recently laid off and were on a rehiring list.
The new hires alone will cost the cash-strapped district $5.7 million, said district spokesman Thomas Waldman. There will be a counselor in each classroom for the rest of the school year.
Although the teachers will be new, Miramonte students will find little else changed, Mr. Deasy told KNX Radio.
"They are coming right back to their desks, their work is already on the wall," he said. "What we are doing today is providing students with an opportunity to talk about what has happened."
In addition to those costs, the district faces potentially millions of dollars in legal costs as lawsuits are filed. Families of at least two dozen Miramonte students have retained lawyers so far.
The school's reopening follows revelations Wednesday that 200 more inappropriate photos of children were discovered, and that one teacher sent warmly written birthday cards and presents to students who participated in his games.
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