Friday, May 2
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A law enforcement report has revealed allegations of sexual abuse of elementary school students by a former Los Angeles teacher who previously pleaded no contest to committing lewd acts on children.
A two-year sheriff's inquiry involving Mark Berndt found more than 100 possible victims, including some children who said he molested them, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday (http://lat.ms/1mlaROA ).
Berndt, who taught at Miramonte Elementary School, was given a 25-year sentence after entering his no contest plea to 23 counts in November. Prosecutors said Berndt fed students his semen on cookies and by spoon in what he called "tasting games," sometimes blindfolding and photographing them.
The allegations in the new report are the first to be made public that Berndt, 63, sexually abused students, the newspaper said. The new revelations were first reported by public radio station KPCC-FM.
Berndt's attorney Manny Medrano dismissed as "without substance" the broader abuse alleged in the sheriff's probe.
"We've always maintained there was no physical touching of students," Medrano said.
The 512-page report is confidential but was summarized by Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley during a hearing this week.
Wiley indicated that Berndt was suspected of touching students in a sexual manner and exposing himself, while also urging students to touch him.
Some 63 lawsuits filed on behalf of students against the Los Angeles Unified School District have been settled for a total of $29.5 million, and dozens of others are pending. The first trial is scheduled for July.
Berndt, who taught for 32 years at the South Los Angeles school, was removed in 2011.
The case led to a wide-ranging overhaul of how the nation's second-largest school district handles allegations of sexual abuse after it was revealed that previous complaints about Berndt's behavior were ignored.
Shortly after Berndt's arrest, the school district temporarily removed all 76 teachers at the school, along with staff and administrators, putting them on leave and having them report to an empty high school nearby.
Six months later, when the new school year began, 43 of them returned to a restructured Miramonte with a new principal. The rest either retired or went to new schools. None was accused of any wrongdoing.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com