Sex abuse, scandal, and reactions

Miramonte Elementary School has had the worst week ever. First came the arrest of Mark Berndt. He is charged with “allegedly tying up elementary school children, placing live cockroaches on their faces and possibly feeding them his semen from a blue spoon.” Within a few days, another teacher from the same school was charged with sex abuse. Martin Bernard Springer was acused of fondling two girls, although one of the girls later recanted. And if that were not enough, an unnamed female teacher is also accused of helping Berndt find “pretty girls” to abuse.

The allegations against Berndt apparently go back years:

The same teacher had been the subject of a parent complaint in 1994 and another in 2008. In the earlier case, which involved the alleged fondling of a student, the D.A.’s office found insufficient evidence to file. In the 2008 case, a student’s parents went to the Miramonte principal with strange photos of their daughter, ostensibly taken by Berndt. One showed a cookie with a shiny coating.

The parents say the principal waved off their concerns, telling them that it might have been some kind of class project.

Berndt was removed early in 2011 after a CVS worker reported some photos Berndt had taken. The police later found semen on a spoon in Berndt’s home. However, no arrests came until a few weeks ago, and no parents were notified about the situation.

It seems odd that the school and the authorities decided not to inform the public. If they were seeking to investigate the extent of Berndt’s crimes, it would seem better to let people know he is under investigation rather than keep it under wraps for a year.

However, the school continued to behave in a strange manner. This week they removed all the faculty and staff from the school:

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy said Monday night that more than 120 staff members at Miramonte Elementary School — everyone from the principal and teachers to the cafeteria workers — were being replaced because a full investigation of the allegations will be disruptive and staffers will require support to get through the scandal.

“We intend to interview every adult, every adult who works at that school, whether they are a teacher or administrator, or whether they are an after-school playground worker or a custodian or a secretary. I mean every single solitary adult who works at Miramonte,” Deasy said to parents who packed a high school gymnasium.

That is quite the overreaction to the situation. So far there is no indication every adult who worked at the school abused children. To treat every as suspect because of what two or three people did is patently ridiculous.

Some parents applaud the removal while others, and their children, protest the decision. Either way, the decision does not actually address the real issue, which is determining which and how many students were abused.


10 thoughts on “Sex abuse, scandal, and reactions

  1. I disagree that it’s an overreaction, in fact it’s the first sensible thing they have done, rather than have a trickle-down effect where day by day it’s leaked to the media that more and more staff from the top downwards knew what was going on and did nothing, they can comply with any future charges arising out of failure to carry out mandatory reporting, with one block of interviews and information.

    Those cleared of all wrongdoing won’t have a problem, if they were that worried about the kids and they knew something but wanted to protect their careers, they could have quit/transferred and then called the authorities until someone did something. Since that is not what happened and nobody is demanding the closure of the whole school, having new staff (a group which they might have the common sense to background check first) might be a quick fix, but one which will allow the school to keep running over what will turn into a process lasting years.

  2. Well, my initial impression is that Mr. Springer is probably innocent of the charges against him and I can only pray he doesn’t get caught up in the backlash of the evil that Mark Berndt apparently is guilty of. I sometimes defend statutory rapists when its mid teens or older ( or in rare cases a very “old looking” 12 to 14 year old in a club and with faux ID) and the sex was consensual and not coerced via alcohol, power over grades that sort of thing, but there is no doubt that the allegations against Mr. Berndt (who I believe is almost certainly guilty though of course entitled to a fair trial) are horrific (The only way it could have been worse is if he downright raped, tortured, or killed those children) and so I understand the fear, anger, and pain that the local community is experiencing as a result of this case. Maybe some day I’ll come out with my own story – I was a young teen and I managed to avoid sexual victimization because I had been educated about this stuff – but I can only imagine the pain that others who were younger or in less of a position to defend themselves must have went through.

    We desperately need better detection, treatment, and more effective punishment of those who prey on young boy and girl teens and children.

  3. ComicBookGuy, the thing is that the police end up wasting time and money asking hundreds of likely innocent people questions instead of searching for the victims of crimes. It also punishes those who may not have known anything about what happened or may have reported it and saw nothing happen.

  4. Clarence, I do not know if Springer is innocent or not. It is possible that the girl who recanted did so because of the media attention. Because of the nature of the charges, unless the girl cooperates the police cannot go forward with her case. So it is possible that she is credible and simply because she recanted the prosecutors did not file charges in her case.

    I do think that there is a chance of all these cases getting lumped together. I saw earlier on a news report that a teacher’s aide is accused of sending love letters to a boy.

  5. Jacob:
    I don’t know if Springer is innocent either and I do want the investigation of him to be full and complete and fair. I just gave my initial impressions based on prior experiences with cases such as these (they do tend to have collateral victims no matter the truth or falsity of the main allegations ) and what I’ve read in the links you provided. I may be wrong. I’ll say a prayer that justice is done for all the victims in this case whether they be teachers or students. I feel that is all one can do right now as its being investigated.

    Also, if it makes you feel better – its a bit off-topic- I hope you’ve noticed what I’ve noticed: while there is still tremendous ignorance and pushback both within and without of feminism toward male victims, it does seem better than it used to be with some explicitly feminist blogs (NSWATM being the one I can think of right this minute) and feminist leaning blogs (Good Men Project) and some newspapers and other news sources giving the victims more coverage. Considering you have often one of a few very lonely voices talking and writing about the issue I hope you see it has not been in vain, though much remains to be done.

  6. Does anyone else here have an issue with the fact that the female teacher, who is accused of procuring children for the accused, has been given a pass with regard to revealing her identity to the public? I’m going to ask a question with an obvious answer but I have to ask it anyway, what makes her so special that she is the only one out 3 adults that is given such consideration? I don’t know the facts of the case, but these people deserve to have their identities protected until such time as they are found guilty. The fact that this consideration is apparently only extended to women makes my blood boil.

  7. Clarence, I have noticed the change and I think it is a good thing. It sad that the change had to happen by male victims and their supporters basically demanding that feminists acknowledge male victims, but at least some of them started to do so.

  8. Jesus_marley, I was put off by the female teacher’s identity being protected as well. It makes no sense to hide her identity if the police are investigating her for helping procure girls for Berndt.

  9. Living in Los Angeles I have seen several local TV reports on this. The odd thing is that initially parents were outraged and afraid to send their children back to that school because more than one teacher was involved. The school board made the decision to close the school for several days and replace the entire staff in an effort to reassure parents that the school was safe. New reports indicate that the children and many parents are upset because the school replaced its staff. The children feel traumatized because their education has been disrupted and they feel like they are going to a different school and did not get to say goodbye to their teachers. The district appears to be “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” in this situation.
    As for the police investigation, it would be standard procedure to interview all employees to find potential witnesses and/or more suspects. This is not a waste of time or resources at all.
    The refusal to name the female teacher is very disturbing. In fact, in all the reports I’ve seen on TV I was unaware a female teacher had been involved. I knew three teachers were accused and was aware of the names of two, but did not even know the third was a woman.


  10. Child Molesters tend to work in groups and so it makes sense to fire every teacher because if there is one there may be others involved.

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