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State audit on LAUSD handling of child abuse includes look at 6 schools

California State Capitol in Sacramento
California State Capitol in Sacramento

California's auditor Elaine Howle will begin her performance audit on how L.A. Unified handles child abuse claims within a week and will look at the policies and procedures of the district as well as six schools, according to state Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, who requested the review.

The request for the performance audit was unanimously approved today by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

"I'm ecstatic," Lara said this afternoon after the committee meeting, which he chairs, approved his request. The request was given priority by a separate vote of the committee. "We're going to see if the state has a role in clarifying the current statutes. We hope to get a comprehensive look at what current policies are in place and identify any lapses or omissions."

The audit will take about seven to nine months and will not only look at the school district's policies and procedures but also at six school sites within L.A. Unified to determine how to strengthen oversight in reporting accusations against district employees, Lara said. "We find it necessary to go into the schools and audit and investigate to see what schools are doing," Lara said.

Lara requested the committee perform the audit after two teachers from Miramonte Elementary School were accused of lewd acts on children. L.A. Unified has since seen an increase in reports.

A Democrat representing southeast Los Angeles, Lara said the Miramonte Elementary School does not fall in his area, but is across the street from it and many of his constituents have children who attend the school. 

"I myself am a survivor of child abuse, and so when I hear the accounts of what the children have had to endure, it brought back frightful memories," Lara said. "As a child you are taught to go to adults when you need help...when acts are being committed by adults, you're alone."

The state auditor will select six schools at random and notify them of her visit, Lara said. 

"It is critical that we as a state do everything possible to keep our children safe and investigate the roles, what entities have in keeping children safe," said Lara, referring to the role of the school, district, union, state officials as well as the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Superintendent John Deasy has said he "welcomes" the audit.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).