Archive

Deal reached in Los Angeles school sex abuse case | TribLIVE.com
News

Deal reached in Los Angeles school sex abuse case

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Unified School District will pay $139 million to end remaining litigation involving an elementary school teacher convicted of committing numerous lewd acts on his students, according to the settlement announced Friday.

The deal involving 81 students puts a legal end to the saga that began when Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt was arrested in 2012 and accused of blindfolding students and feeding them his semen on spoons and cookies.

Plaintiff’s lawyers had planned to present evidence that the school district was aware of sexual misconduct by Berndt over three decades but failed to act until a photo processor at a pharmacy contacted police about pictures of blindfolded children being fed some substance.

The 19-year-old woman had only been on the job a month at CVS when she discovered the troubling photos and learned Berndt had been processing similar pictures there since 2005, said John Manly, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit.

“She was told not to call the police by her supervisors, and she did it anyway,” Manly said. “If she hadn’t made that call, we wouldn’t be here today and he’d still be teaching.”

The case led to an overhaul of how the nation’s second-largest school district handles allegations of sexual abuse. After Berndt’s arrest, the district removed all 130 staff members from the school and placed them at an unopened empty school during the lengthy investigation.

“Our goal from the outset of these appalling revelations has been to spare the Miramonte community the anguish of a protracted trial, while at the same time being mindful of the financial consequences stemming from settlements,” Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines said in a statement. “We believe we struck a balance between those objectives.”

The investigation caused a huge upheaval at the school, where most of the students are from poor Hispanic homes. Parents had been hesitant to complain about Berndt because of a deep respect for teachers, and they were reluctant to cooperate with police because many feared deportation.

Lawyers for the students said it was the largest sex-abuse case settlement involving a school district. The Associated Press couldn’t independently verify that claim.


TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.