Complete Coverage of the ongoing investigation of a South LA elementary school

14 Mothers File Lawsuit Against LAUSD Over Miramonte Sex Abuse Scandal

The lawsuit is the latest against the school district in the wake of a sex abuse scandal involving a former Miramonte teacher

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A third lawsuit stemming from the sex abuse scandal at the South LA elementary school involves 14 parents who claim they suffered emotional distress because their children were victimized. Stephanie Elam reports from South Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 10, 2012.

    Attorneys representing 14 mothers of students at Miramonte Elementary School announced Tuesday the filing of a lawsuit that alleges the school district did not protect their children from a teacher accused of lewd acts involving children.

    Timeline: Miramonte School Sex Abuse Scandal

    The lawsuit claims the Los Angeles Unified School District was negligent in the case of former teacher Mark Berndt, charged with lewd acts involving at least 20 children at the school.

    Berndt was arrested in January.

    Deasy: "Shameful" That Teacher Discipline Bill Died in Committee

    [LA] Deasy: "Shameful" That Teacher Discipline Bill Died in Committee
    A bill that would have simplified and expedited the process for removing teachers accused of lewd or violent acts involving children from the classroom died in committee in Sacramento. LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy says the vote was "shameful." Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.

    The lawsuit, filed Tuesday morning, claims the children were sexually abused by Berndt between 2002 and 2011, and that the LAUSD "was negligent and did not protect their children from sexual abuses; and that the Los Angeles Unified School District completely ignored previous complaints," according to a statement from attorney Luis A. Carrillo.

    "Fourteen moms have suffered anguish and emotional distress as a result of what their children went through," Carrillo said Tuesday.

    None of the plaintiffs were aware of Berndt's alleged activities, Carrillo added.

    David Holmquist, LAUSD General Counsel, issued a statement Tuesday morning regarding the lawsuit: "The safety and well-being of our students, staff and the entire Los Angeles Unified School District community is our paramount priority. The District is committed to working with the Miramonte community and everyone impacted by these incidents to improve trust and promote healing. While the District has yet to receive the latest complaint, we are continuing our efforts to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide a safe learning and working environment for our students and staff.

    "As we gear up for the new school year, we look forward to continuing the healing process as we welcome back the teachers and staff, who were displaced during last year’s investigation into these incidents, to Miramonte and other campuses. We recognize how difficult the past year was on the entire Miramonte community, and are moving forward together."

    In May, parents of about a dozen ex-Miramonte Elementary students filed another lawsuit against the school district. That complaint alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress.

    A similar complaint was filed earlier that month on behalf of 20 former students at the school.

    The charges against Berndt involve 23 children who were 7 to 10 years old. His arrest stemmed from an investigation that began after a film processor -- mandated by state law to report child abuse -- provided photos to sheriff's deputies.

    Some of the photos depicted children with blindfolds over their eyes, cockroaches on their faces and a blue plastic spoon held to their mouths. Some pictures showed Berndt with his arm around the children or his hand over their  mouths, according to investigators.

    Detectives found a blue plastic spoon and an empty container in a trash bin in Berndt's classroom, according to the sheriff's department. Both items tested positive for semen, and DNA testing matched it to Berndt, according to authorities.

    Deputies recovered more than 100 similar photos at Berndt's home, according to investigators. The film processor later discovered more photos.

    Berndt was suspended without pay in February 2011 and allowed to resign in June 2011 after a $40,000 settlement with the LAUSD.

    Berndt pleaded not guilty.

    His arrest was followed by another Miramonte Elementary teacher and the dismissal of the entire school staff. Martin Bernard Springer is charged with three felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14.

    The cases led to legislation designed to expedite the disciplinary review process for teachers accused of sexual abuse. That bill failed to clear the Assembly Education Committee last month.

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