Two months almost to the day since officials with the Los Angeles Unified School District thought they had settled all of the cases in the Miramonte Elementary School child abuse scandal, an LA County Superior Court judge gave the approval for one more case to move forward.
E.Z. v. LAUSD was filed May 19, admittedly behind the prior cases already going through the process in the Court. In the filing, the petitioner claims she was a student of Mark Berndt's in 1996-1997 and that she, along with other students, was fed "cookies with a whitish liquid substance" on them during class.
Investigations later revealed that "whitish" substance contained Berndt's own DNA. The petitioner also claims she was photographed while blindfolded and that Berndt "constantly hugged and touched" her and on several occasions, "he pulled her next to his body very closely and hugged or touched her for an extended period of time."
An attorney for the petitioner, Susan Owen, wrote in the court filing that Berndt often visited the girl's home after school and on weekends, unannounced, sometimes spending full days with her and her family. Owen wrote that the girl's two brothers and a sister also had Berndt as their teacher.
LAUSD settled the remaining 80 cases in the Miramonte case in November 2014 for a total of nearly $140,000,000 -- added to previous settlements in 2013, the total reaches almost $200 million. But in the petitioner's court filing, she claims it was not until September 2013 that she saw her former teacher's image on television as his criminal trial was being discussed that she claims she realized his "multiple inappropriate acts with students" were criminal.
Berndt pleaded "no contest" to 23 counts of lewd acts with children and is serving a 25-year sentence in state prison.
Owen writes that the petitioner, now 29 years old, was denied her initial plea to LAUSD in February 2014 to file a complaint because of the statute of limitations. On Tuesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge approved the case to move forward.
Local news from across Southern California
LAUSD has not commented on the case.
A judge also approved a new hearing date for Aug. 4, 2015.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated E.Z. v. LAUSD was filed May 7, but it was filed May 19.