There is no excuse for keeping a convicted child abuser in the classroom.
School district administrators who allowed Brentwood teacher Dina Holder to remain on the job should be fired. Four Brentwood school district trustees who knew about the violence in her classroom for more than two years must explain why they didn't intercede. And an independent outside investigator must be retained to fully determine for the community what transpired.
We recognize the difficulties districts face firing incompetent or misbehaving instructors. The teachers lobby has bankrolled campaigns of enough Sacramento lawmakers that they have made the dismissal process excessively burdensome and expensive.
But Superintendent Merrill Grant's claims that his hands were tied in the Holder case are bogus. That the dismissal process is difficult is not an excuse for failing to pursue it. And it doesn't justify Grant's failure to at least place her on leave.
Grant's pat line this week that he was as disturbed as other parents in the district doesn't cut it. He was in a position to act and he didn't. Indeed, more than two years after the incident, he was stunningly uninformed about how his staff had handled the first reports of abuse.
What went on inside Holder's classroom was horrific. In 2010, she threw a 5-year-old, special-needs student to the floor and kicked him twice. We now know it wasn't an isolated incident.
Instructional aides who were present reported the incident. Word reached Loma Vista Elementary School Principal Lauri James the following day. Yet it wasn't until a week after the abuse that she notified the boy's mother. And it was the parent who finally notified police. Neither James nor Assistant Superintendent Margaret Kruse did so.
As late as Wednesday, the superintendent was still falsely claiming the district had made the call. Only when confronted with testimony to the contrary did he get his story straight.
The incident happened just days before the end of the school year. Holder was placed on leave for the remainder of the semester. But when school resumed after summer break, she was back in the classroom, this time at Krey Elementary, even though, Grant now admits, there was no doubt about the details of the abuse incident.
It gets worse. In October 2011, after police investigated, Holder pleaded no contest to misdemeanor child abuse. She was sentenced to four years' probation. Yet the district still kept her in the classroom.
She remained at Krey until last week. It was only because the parent sued the district and Holder that she was finally forced to stop teaching, take a desk job and retire at the end of the school year.
The superintendent says trustees Tobi Laird Benz, Emil Geddes and Carlos Sanabria were kept apprised from the onset, and Heather Partida after her election in November 2010. Now it's up to them and new Trustee Jim Cushing to act.
The community deserves a full, independent investigation and explanation. And steps must be taken to ensure this never happens again.