More than 20 complaints of lewd acts against former students at Miramonte Elementary were allegedly ignored or neglected by school and LAUSD administrators, according to a lawsuit filed on May 4 against the district.
The negligence suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of 20 former Miramonte students, accuses all but one Los Angeles Unified School District board member and two former Miramonte principals of not properly reacting to or preparing for complaints of sexual abuse.
The suit says the district has allegedly been ignoring complaints by former students of Mark Berndt — charged in January with 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children — since 1990.
The case is the first negligence suit of such magnitude against the district regarding the Miramonte scandal that played out in January, said prosecuting attorney Luis Carrillo.
Within the next week, Carrillo plans to file another lawsuit on behalf of about a dozen of the victims’ mothers who have allegedly sustained emotional injuries.
If a jury eventually awards damages to the victims, it could include putting “all of the kids in therapy for emotional damages” and more, making it too premature to estimate a dollar amount, Carrillo said.
The suit cited “emotional anguish, distress and pain” and “generalized shock and trauma to the nervous system” as effects of the district’s negligence.
In addition to allegedly ignoring filed complaints by victims, defendants are accused of “lacking policies and procedures” to ensure children's safety and susceptibility to sexual abuse, and sustaining “a hostile environment against children who have been victims of sexual abuse by teachers.”
They’re also accused of “cover[ing] up” the abuse, and failing to “remove teachers from the classroom…when students and/or parents report[ed] sexual misconduct.”
Carrillo believes earlier incidents in the 1990s that allegedly weren’t addressed by administrators enabled the string of abuse charges against the suit’s plaintiffs that occurred between 2002 and 2011.
“He felt so empowered by the first ignored alarm bells,” Carrillo said.
Though LAUSD has implemented structural changes at Miramonte, Carrillo believes this lawsuit could lead to district-wide improvements.
“Out of this tragedy will come a benefit,” Carrillo said. “Remedial changes will be put in place…these lawsuits will shape the district to its core.”
LAUSD will not comment on pending litigation.