Los Angeles

Los Angeles: A Teacher, Falsely Accused

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Do you want to know why teachers need due process (aka “tenure”)? Read the story below, sent by reader Drew Pepper.


Here’s another story of how LAUSD (mis)handles a case where a teacher is accused of something:




1) LAUSD and Sun Valley High teacher Jason Duchan discovers a student drawing genitals on his desk, then reports this to the principal, who then informs the student’s parents, causing the student to get in big trouble with the adults both at school and at home;


2) That same night, the student retaliates by fabricating a Facebook page that is supposedly created by the teacher, Jason Duchan, full of lewd images and writing—all in an effort to frame Duchan; the teacher remains unaware of the page’s existence for over a year;


3) A year or so later, LAUSD’s “Student Safety Investigative Team” (yeah, that’s what the call it) discovers the Facebook page, but does not deign to talk first to the teacher, Jason, Duchan, and ask him whether or not he was the lewd Facebook page’s actual creator, even though doing so would have cleared the matter up instantly;


4) Instead, Duchan is suspended and hauled off to “teacher jail” without being told the reason, where he languishes for weeks before discovering the charge—and not from LAUSD, but from another teacher, his school’s union rep; upon Duchan’s removal, LAUSD immediately sends out a letter informing all of the parents of students at the school that Duchan was under investigation for possibly being a danger to students;


5) The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) becomes involved and does what LAUSD’s quasi-police unit, “The Student Safety Investigative Team”, did not… they first go to Duchan to hear his side of things, who then tells it all — his innocence, how this was all the doings of a mischievous, vindictive student out to frame him, etc.;


The moment Duchan saw the Facebook page, he said he knew who created it. Two of the posts made reference to a student being accused of drawing genitals on a desk, and Duchan said the date the page was created corresponds exactly to the time he reported a student to the assistant principal for drawing genitals on a desk;


6) LAPD quickly investigates the matter, arrests the student for “false impersonation” on a Facebook page, and LAPD Detective Lisette Fuentes issues a statement fully exonerating Duchan;


7) Instead of putting Duchan back to work and apologizing to him, Jose Cantu, head of the district’s Student Safety Investigative Team, said that an active investigation of Duchan by the district is still underway, although he wouldn’t comment on the details;


8) Two weeks later, and after some outcry, Duchan was told by LAUSD that he could return to his classroom, but, as a condition of his return, demanded that he sign a paper that acknowledged he was still under investigation and could not talk about the case. Duchan said he refused to go back to the Sun Valley High campus because he had heard many students thought he was guilty, so he didn’t feel safe returning.


“They were putting me into a hostile environment. They had already sent letters home, and wouldn’t parents be upset to find out a teacher under investigation was back in the classroom?” he said.


Duchan, who teaches media art classes, said he went on medial leave and returned to the district on Feb. 2 as a full-time substitute teacher at a different school. He said the district will only offer him is his old job and no other full-time work. Duchan said he feels his name and reputation have been ruined at the campus.


“I’m trying not to cry when I talk about it,” he said. “I’m going through very severe PTSD, panic attacks, and I have acute insomnia.”

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