Esquith’s attorney turns down LAUSD ‘kangaroo court’ hearing
Mike Szymanski | September 10, 2015
In another testy exchange with LA Unified, a lawyer for teacher Rafe Esquith said district investigators are asking “loaded questions” of past and present students about the conduct of the teacher.
The district called for a hearing this month with Esquith, who is still on payroll while in “teacher jail,” but the attorney turned down the request, calling such a hearing a “kangaroo court.”
In a letter of response sent yesterday, Esquith’s lawyer, Ben Meiselas, said he was declining the request because it said district investigators would be discussing “your inappropriate conduct.”
“The hearing will be biased, unjust, and will seek only to effectuate the purpose of the witch hunt from the very beginning, which was admitted by LAUSD investigators, which was to destroy Mr. Esquith’s career, as it has done with thousands of other teachers,” Meiselas said.
He said Esquith would not participate in “LAUSD’s kangaroo court system.”
Meiselas said school investigators have “engaged in threatening and harassing conduct toward students and parents in low-income and minority neighborhoods” in asking questions about Esquith, a celebrated teacher who started the Hobarth Shakespeareans. He was removed from the classroom after what an assistant teacher thought was an inappropriate reading from Mark Twain.
Meiselas’s letter says that school investigators asked students such questions as have they ever “sat in Mr. Esquith’s lap.”
The district disputed Meiselas’s characterization of the communications with district officials.
In a statement today, the district said it has “endeavored to expedite the investigation of teacher Rafe Esquith to a swift, yet thorough and fair conclusion. Mr. Esquith was not requested to attend a ‘hearing,’ as asserted by his attorney. Rather, he was directed to attend an informal meeting so that he could respond to the allegations made against him.”
The district said those kinds of meetings are conducted before any disciplinary action in the spirit of due process.
“Through his attorney’s letter, Mr. Esquith has flatly refused to comply with this reasonable directive,” the district said. “The District, of course, must investigate serious allegations of misconduct and protect students. It would prefer to accomplish this task with the full cooperation and participation of Mr. Esquith but will take appropriate and responsible next steps regardless.”
Esquith’s legal team has filed a class action lawsuit that lawyers say involves hundreds of teachers who have fallen into what the district calls a “teacher housing” situation while investigations are being done. A Los Angeles Police investigation is also being conducted on the Esquith accusations involving children.
Meiselas said Esquith will no longer do the daily “check-in” as required by teachers in the housed situation.
- Adds district response.