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.