Until Tuesday, Michael Phillips had been earning his regular salary despite being arrested April 3 after Lodi police allegedly found heroin inside the teacher's vehicle during a school lunch break.
Lodi Unified School District has a policy of removing teachers from the classroom and placing them on leave until a legal matter is resolved, according to Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer.
"Just because someone's arrested, doesn't mean they're guilty," she said, adding that when student safety is a concern or the police are involved, the most important thing is to temporarily remove that person from any interaction with children.
"Paid leave is reserved when there is not enough determination that the person did something," Nichols-Washer added. "That's the dilemma we get stuck in."
Only the school board can place an employee on unpaid leave, which is what trustees did Tuesday regarding Phillips, a second-grade teacher at Beckman Elementary School.
The Los Angeles Times newspaper reported this week that the Los Angeles Unified School District spends $10 million a year paying teachers who don't do anything as they wait for allegations of misconduct to be resolved.
Phillips, 37, was arrested last month and charged with a felony drug possession charge, as well as a misdemeanor count of possessing a syringe. He pleaded not guilty to all charges at his last court appearance on April 24.
Phillips remains free on the $10,000 bail he posted the day of his arrest and is scheduled to return to court next week.
Although the district has a policy related to matters such as these, Nichols-Washer said it's a case-by-case issue.
When McNair High School English teacher Christina Eve Oliver was accused of having sex with a 16-year-old male student, she, too, was placed on leave, but it was unpaid. She will not be employed with the district after May 29, according to Nichols-Washer.
"In some cases it is mandatory for the district to place a teacher on unpaid leave (immediately)," she said of Oliver.
Whether the leave is paid or unpaid is dependent on which law the person is accused of violating, Nichols-Washer added.
Oliver, 24, is scheduled to return to court next week for a preliminary hearing, where prosecutors will present evidence and a judge is expected to rule whether it's enough to justify a full trial.
She, too, is out of custody on $50,000 bail, and she has pleaded not guilty to seven felony charges. She is under court order to stay away from both the Lodi Unified School District school and the boy.
Other than Phillips and Oliver, there are currently no LUSD teachers on paid or unpaid leave, according to the district's personnel office. Phillips is still employed by the district.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.