A teacher charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct for allegedly molesting and abusing children in his classroom evaded actual termination from the Los Angeles Unified School District enabling him to retain his lifetime health benefits.
Former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, 61, was exposed for blindfolding children ages 6 to 10 and molesting them after a film processor reported the existence of a film roll of 40 pictures depicting Berndt blindfolding young girls and taping their mouths shut. Police later found 400 more incriminating photos in Berndt’s home. The charges Berndt currently faces are for acts from 2008-2010.
According to a Los Angeles Times report:
Some photos allegedly showed Berndt with his arm around children or his hand over their mouths. Other photos showed children with live bugs the size of hissing cockroaches on their mouths or faces.
Others depicted girls with what appears to be a spoon up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest a clear-white liquid. Children were fed Berndt’s semen from a spoon or on cookies, investigators said.
Kids reported being fed something distasteful. A blue plastic spoon and container found in the trash in his classroom tested positive for his semen, authorities said.
The kids reportedly told police their teacher said it was a game and the substance was “sugar.”
Last week, KTTV in Los Angeles reported that this new case is not the first time Berndt was investigated for sexual abuse. In January 1994 Berndt was investigated for sexual misconduct by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, but charges were not filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
The Los Angeles Times confirmed the KTTV report Friday. According to the story:
The mother informed school administrators, who notified the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. The department turned over the case to the district attorney in February 1994, but prosecutors dropped the matter after determining “that the evidence was insufficient to prove a crime occurred,” they said in a written statement Thursday.
In a January 31 Los Angeles Times story, Superintendent John Deasy was quoted saying that he was disgusted by the acts and that Berndt was removed the day the information was discovered–January 7, 2011–and was terminated the next day.
Deasy has been vocal with the media in that he believes Berndt should lose his benefits and pension, but after Berndt’s brief termination, lawyers for the District reconsidered and felt it was too risky to actually fire Berndt before he was convicted despite the overwhelming photographic proof found by police.
Big Government attempted to contact Deasy, but the Los Angeles Unified School District phone system only had a recording repeatedly saying to hold to wait for the next available agent. After 28 minutes of holding, Big Government terminated the call.
The real question here is not even why Berndt should be allowed to continue collect his benefits, but why the school district did not take further action based on the initial reports in 1994. If they had, these later acts from 2008-2010 could have been avoided.
Even more concerning is what could have happened between 1995 and 2007. Thus far, no information exists about any of Berndt’s potential actions during that time.
Concerns for the Miramonte Elementary School are not over. On Friday, a second teacher was pulled from the school and arrested for investigation for committing inappropriate acts on girls. According to a Fox News report:
Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker said 49-year-old Martin Springer of Alhambra was arrested based on information that came forward after the first arrest was announced, but there was no known connection between the two cases. Parker said the victims in the second case were about 7 years old and allegedly were fondled in a classroom.