The lawyer for the mother of a girl who was allegedly abused by a Miramonte Elementary School teacher announced Friday the family has filed a claim in court against the teacher and the school district, alleging “a massive cover-up” that allowed abusive behavior for two decades.
Attorney Brian Claypool accused Miramonte teachers of escorting young female students to the empty classroom of Mark Henry Berndt afterschool so he could “carry out all of his sordid activities on these kids.”
“He would say, ‘Hey that little girl over there looks pretty,’” Claypool said during a noontime news conference outside Miramonte Elementary School. ”Why don’t you bring those little girls over to my class over here.
“That is horrible, horrific, reprehensible and that puts this school on notice that they have other individuals working in that school who have aided and abetted Mr. Berndt.”
The claim - a precursor to a lawsuit - seeks damages for emotional distress and calls on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to broaden its investigation into the the school going back 20 years, after a student reportedly made the first complaint about Berndt’s alleged inappropriate behavior.
Claypool’s statement was the second announcement this week of a pending claim in the case.
In announcing plans of his claim, attorney Raymond Boucher said in a statement Friday that the district “did not take adequate steps to prevent the abuse from occurring over and over again.”
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Berndt, who worked at Miramonte for more than 30 years, was arrested Monday and charged with felony molestation involving 23 students, ages 7 to 10, between 2005 and 2010, officials said.
All of the alleged victims but two are girls.
He was in custody Friday, being held on $23 million bond. He was expected to be arraigned in court on Feb. 21.
A message left for Berndt’s public defender, Elizabeth Braustein, was not immediately returned.
On Friday, authorities announced an arrest of a second teacher at the school, identified as Martin Bernard Springer, 49. He was being held at the Los Angeles County Jail on a charge of lewd acts, with bail set at $2 million.
The first complaint about Berndt’s behavior possibly came as early as 1990, when a student told school officials that Berndt either tried to or did touch her genitalia, Claypool said. School officials told the student not to make up stories, Claypool added.
The Berndt case came to light in late 2010 after a film processor contacted police about photos depicting children in a classroom with their eyes blindfolded and tape covering their mouths, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.