Mark Berndt: Teacher Accused of Playing Sex Games with Kids
Changes and Charges
Superintendent John Deasy has acknowledged that his administration did not immediately file a state report on Mark Berndt, waiting until his February 2012 arrest, when they should have filed the report within 30 days of his February 2011 firing.
Deasy has now transferred all of Miramonte Elementary's staff and teachers to other schools. Retired administrator Dolores Palacio has replaced principal Martin Sandoval. A new batch of replacement teachers have come in, and, for the remainder of the 2011-2012 school year, each of Miramonte's classrooms will have its own counselor to help students deal with the trauma and shake-ups spawned by Mark Berndt's alleged sex games.
The relocations have drawn the ire of the teachers' union. The union accepted the moves when, according to President Warren Fletcher, its members were promised that the moves were temporary and that the scandal would not tarnish the innocent teachers' records. While Superintendent Deasy still maintains that all cleared teachers will be reassigned to Miramonte once the investigations are complete, teachers are incensed to find that the transfers have been listed in their personnel records as "administrative transfers" — a seemingly innocuous term that is typically used to describe transfers that are part of disciplinary actions.
The teachers' union has filed grievances against the move. And many parents, already frightened by and angry about the threat to their children's safety that predatory teachers represent and authority inaction encourages, are protesting the transfers as yet another disruption to their children's educations.
But with new allegations coming out against teachers in the district, Superintendent Deasy must have been desperate for some course of action.
More Teachers Charged
Local reporters have dug up plenty of nasty incidents in the Los Angeles Unified School District that put the Mark Berndt case into a horrifying context. Some of them involve Berndt's own school.
In 2005, Miramonte Elementary teacher's aide Ricardo Guevara was convicted of lewd acts against three girls. Administrators had allegedly discounted three sets of complaints before Guevara was caught literally with his hand in a girl's pants. The girls' families were awarded a total of $1.6 million.
Even more incredibly, a father has claimed that when he complained about inappropriate photos Berndt took of his daughter, the school transferred the girl to another alleged abuser's classroom.
That teacher is Martin Bernard Springer. On February 7, 2012, Springer, 49, was charged with three felony counts of lewdness. Hours later, the district fired him; he did not appeal his dismissal within the 30-day window for objections. Springer is fitted with a monitoring device intended to keep him away from witnesses and children and he is out on $300,000 bail while awaiting trial. He could spend three years in prison if a jury convicts him.
Attorney Gregory Owen, representing the alleged victim, has filed two suits against the district, Mark Berndt, Martin Springer and former principal Martin Sandoval. Owen cites charges of sexual battery, assault, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He alleges that authorities brushed off another complaint made against Berndt back in the 1990s.