Life is Short. Investigate Wisely.

...investigations should be completed in a timely matter, nothing and I mean nothing, will stand in the way of making sure our students and school communities are safe."

-Ramon Cortines, LAUSD Superintendent

The fifth grade students of Hobart Elementary School have started the school year without award winning teacher Rafe Esquith in the classroom. They are also deprived of access to his nonprofit, the Hobart Shakespeareans, and its proven record of allowing students to “move on to attend outstanding colleges.” Instead, Esquith continues to be confined to teacher jail as the five month investigation against him drags on. What started with a complaint about a joke told in the classroom has somehow expanded into “a complex investigation that requires painstaking, time-consuming work.”

David Binkle has been hailed as “an excellent leader who led several important nutrition initiatives for Los Angeles students,” but resigned from the LAUSD after being paid to stay at home for eight months. The District “placed Binkle on administrative leave in December so that he would be available to answer investigator’s questions,” but Binkle says that the investigators never contacted him during this time. While the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) accused him “of failing to report payments from vendors to attend school food conferences,” Binkle has stated that his “actions were approved and encouraged from senior district officials.” One of his superiors was Michelle King, who has been called a “‘top candidate’ to replace Ramon Cortines.” The investigation drags on as the public waits for a final report.

With all this and more on their plates, the OIG has now announced that it is now diverting resources to investigate “whether the teachers whose district emails appear on the Ashley Madison database violated district policy.” It is unclear why teachers are being singled out when the initial LASR story stated that the LAUSD e-mail addresses included in the database belonged to “principals, teachers, athletic directors, athletic coaches, administrators, cafeteria workers and at least one school police officer.” This investigation appears to be driven by internal forces as the LAUSD’s Director of Communications admits that she has “not heard any concerns from District parents.” It is also probable that the cost of the investigation will be higher than any actual harm to the district. While users may have provided their district email address, they “didn’t use school computers to access the dating website” as it has been verified as blocked by the District’s IT department.

If history is any indication, this investigation runs the risk of dragging the reputation of innocent people through the mud. For example, Jason Duchan filed a lawsuit against the LAUSD this summer after he was suspended for posting inappropriate messages to Facebook. After the District “sent memos, to students, teachers and parents, telling them that an employee had been removed for alleged misconduct,” the LAPD arrested a student for falsely creating the page. Interestingly “the one friend the page had turned out to be the student who was arrested for creating it,” but the LAUSD was still tricked into believing the existence of the page was reason enough to destroy a teacher’s reputation.

The risk is even greater with the Ashley Madison website. It should not surprise anyone that a site geared towards facilitating infidelity did not conform to very strong business ethics. In fact, only 1,492 of the 5.5 million women allegedly on the service had ever checked their messages. Therefore, the 31.5 million registered males on the site probably exhibited more bad intentions than bad behavior.  Furthermore, the site “doesn’t require email verification to create an account,” leaving people subject to office pranks and false profiles. Is this a rabbit hole the OIG really wants to go down?


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