Bail Skyrockets to $23M in South LA Teacher Molestation Case | NBC Southern California

Complete coverage of the sexual abuse scandal at a South Los Angeles elementary school

Bail Skyrockets to $23M in South LA Teacher Molestation Case

Former teacher Mark Berndt faces 23 counts of felony molestation



    Mark Berndt

    Bail for a former South Los Angeles elementary school teacher accused of felony molestation was raised Wednesday to $23 million -- $1 million for each of the counts against him, according to the District Attorney's office.

    Mark Berndt was arrested Monday at his Torrance home. The 61-year-old educator allegedly blindfolded children, put cockroaches on students' faces and held spoons containing semen near some student's mouth, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

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    Wednesday's arraignment, which lasted about four minutes, was postponed to Feb. 21, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.

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    Berndt is facing multiple years to life in prison.

    The investigation into Berndt began in late December 2010 after a film processor provided authorities with dozens of photographs that depicted blindfolded children in a classroom with tape over their mouths, according to the sheriff's department.

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    Berndt, who worked at Miramonte Elementary School for more than 30 years, was fired shortly after the investigation began, according to the sheriff's department.

    "I am sickened and horrified by the behavior of Mark Berndt,'' LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said. "This individual and his conduct do not reflect on the quality of the teachers who work so hard on behalf of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District."

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    All of the alleged incidents apparently took place at the school between 2008 and 2010, and involved 23 students, ages 6 to 10, according to investigators.

    Based on the first names of the 23 students listed in the complaint, most of the victims appear to be boys.

    Law enforcement seized about 350 additional photos from Berndt's home and the South Bay film processing business, according to the sheriff's department. They are still working to identify students in those pictures.

    Angry parents confronted Los Angeles school officials on Wednesday, demanding to know why they weren't told sooner about the allegations.

    "They tried to avoid a lot of our questions, and they really didn't have no answers for a lot of questions that were asked. They could have went about it a lot better," parent Kimberly Kirkland said.

    Principal Martin Sandoval says he acted quickly when police showed him pictures of the alleged abuse.

    "The minute I saw these pictures I called my supervisor. We sat down. Twenty minutes later we made a decision to pull him from the school," Sandoval Said.

    Anyone with information about the case can contact deputies at 877-710-5273 or

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