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Miramonte School sex abuse scandal: Was replacing entire staff too extreme? (+video)

Students at the Miramonte School, which was rocked by allegations that two teachers sexually abused children, return to a newly staffed school Thursday. Some parents and education experts say L.A. overreacted.

By Staff writer / February 8, 2012

A mother talks about what she describes as documented child abuse of her son, outside the Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles, Monday. The school has replaced all staff from the administration to the janitors. Some say it's an overreaction that paints everyone with the same brush.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

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Los Angeles

For children, the notion of going “back to school” after a short hiatus ideally includes the sense of a return to a familiar environment.

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But when students at the Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles return to school Thursday after a two-day break, they will be reentering a scandal-rocked institution whose entire staff – from school head down to  janitors – has been replaced.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) administrators ordered the dramatic move at one of the largest elementary schools in the district – it has more than 1,000 students – in response to an investigation that followed the arrests of two teachers accused of lewd acts against multiple children.

Outraged over the alleged sexual abuse, parents have demanded justice and accountability, and at least three lawsuits reportedly have been filed against the LAUSD,  the second largest school district in the nation.

But anger is also brewing against the district’s remedy, with some education experts and parents saying that jettisoning everyone is too extreme.

Some 45 newly rehired teachers, drawn from a pool of recently laid-off LAUSD educators, face the unprecedented task of taking over the remainder of the school year with just two days of preparation. The school’s outgoing staff, who spent Tuesday and Wednesday briefing their replacements on lesson plans and packing their belongings, are being relocated to a school under construction where they will be interviewed and evaluated.

“It’s an over-reaction,” says Jack Jennings, founder and former CEO of the Center for Education Policy in Washington, of the top-to-bottom house-clearing. “It paints everyone with the same brush,” he says, adding that “there should be a more sophisticated response in which the people responsible should be held accountable and those who aren’t should not be implicated or labeled by association as wrongdoers.”

Situations involving children and sexual abuse are highly emotional, he notes, “so you can understand being swept away.” But, he points out that educators have a responsibility to display a calm, rational response.

“You are dealing with young kids, and obviously there appear to be people who were guilty, but you hope you could have meetings where emotions get spent out and everyone rationally tries to decide on the best course of action rather than simply throw everyone out.”

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