Miramonte Sex Abuse Civil Lawsuit on Hold Until March, Judge Rules

Stay issued so plaintiffs, LAUSD lawyers can engage in settlement discussions

By Jason Kandel
|  Monday, Aug 27, 2012  |  Updated 6:03 PM PDT
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Miramonte School Scandal

The entrance to Miramonte Elementary School in Florence, Calif.

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A civil lawsuit involving sex abuse allegations against Miramonte Elementary School is on hold until at least March, according to a lawyer representing students involved in the case.

Full Coverage: Miramonte Abuse Scandal

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Monday granted Luis Carrillo's application for a stay. The ruling paves the way for possible settlement negotiations to begin in November outside of court, said Carrillo, who represents 20 students and 14 mothers.

Carrillo said he has asked for a temporary delay in the case so the plaintiffs and the lawyers for the Los Angeles Unified School District can engage in settlement discussions and avoid exposing the children to the pain of a lengthy trial.

"This helps the kids," Carrillo said. "This is very extraordinary to have settlement discussions at the beginning of the case. I believe the district is acting in good faith by agreeing to this process. We want justice for the kids and to help them get over the memories of these episodes."

David Holmquist, general counsel for the LAUSD, said the district has been exploring alternative means to address civil claims in this matter without the potential pain of a lengthy trial.

"We are pleased that the court granted the stay," Holmquist said in a statement. "We believe it will provide us with the ability to address these claims in a matter that respects the needs and emotions of those impacted."

The civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of students and parents who have alleged sexual misconduct against former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt.

Berndt and another former Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, were arrested on sex abuse charges earlier this year.

The allegations prompted LA schools Superintendent John Deasy to take the unprecedented step of removing all the other teachers while officials investigated whether there were any other allegations of abuse.

A separate criminal case against Berndt and Springer is pending.

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