The Los Angeles Unified School District has launched an internal investigation to determine why a state agency on teacher credentialing was not notified in a timely manner about the case of a former Miramonte Elementary School teacher accused of lewd acts involving children.
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In a statement released Friday announcing the investigation, Superintendent John Deasy said he was made aware of a letter dated Wednesday from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The CTC's letter stated concerns about the notification timeline involving former teacher Mark Berndt -- accused of felony molestation involving 23 children ages 7 to 10 years old.
State regulators require reports when a teacher's employment status changes, but the LAUSD failed to do so until nearly a year after dismissal proceedings against the 61-year-old Berndt. Failure to notify the state agency about the case posed a "potential risk to student safety," according to the commission's letter.
"LAUSD acknowledges that in the case of Mark Berndt, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing was not notified within the required timeline of Berndt’s change in employment status," Deasy said in Friday's statement. "State law requires that school districts report changes in a teacher’s employment status as a result of allegations of misconduct within 30 days of the change in employment status."
In February of 2011, the district suspended Berndt from his teaching position at Miramonte and notified him that they intended to fire him. Berndt was allowed to resign on June 30 after a $40,000 settlement with the district.
The LAUSD notified the CTC of Berndt's change in employment status a day after sheriff's deputies arrested Berndt on Jan. 30, according to the LAUSD. The commission suspended Berndt's credentials the same day he was arrested.
"The failure to timely notify the CTC in this case, is contrary to standard district practice," said Deasy in the statement. "I have immediately launched an internal investigation to determine the reasons for the untimely notice in this case."
A district spokesman told KPCC that if officials informed the credentialing commission of Berndt's status at the time he was being fired, they would have compromised the police investigation.
The letter from the commission states that "failure to make a report required under this section constitutes unprofessional conduct. The Committee may investigate any superintendent who holds a credential who fails to file reports required by this section."
Berndt is one of two former Miramonte teachers accused of lewd acts involving students.