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Some Miramonte sex abuse lawsuits move toward trial

Miramonte lawsuits

Vanessa Romo/KPCC

Attorneys Luis Carrillo (L) and Brian Claypool (R) talking to reporters about their clients' civil lawsuits over alleged lewd acts against Miramonte students

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Mackey on Thursday ruled that two lawyers could back out of settlement talks with the Los Angeles Unified School district over alleged abuses at Miramonte Elementary. The attorneys said the district's offers after four months were "insignificant."

The first trail has been scheduled for September 23.

The lawyers, representing students and parents who allege they were harmed by former  teacher Mark Berndt, had agreed to suspend litigation last fall. They pulled out of mediation last week and filed a motion with the court to be allowed out of the deal. 

At least 120 other cl;aims releated to Brendt's actions are still in negotiation. David Holmquist, LAUSD's lawyer, said he's been working towards resolving the pending lawsuits and hopes to spare the children the trauma of testifying in court.


Attorneys for Miramonte kids say LAUSD is not negotiating abuse claims in good faith

Miramonte lawsuits

Vanessa Romo/KPCC

Attorneys Luis Carrillo (L) and Brian Claypool (R) talk to reporters about their clients' civil lawsuits against LAUSD over alleged lewd acts against children committed by teachers.

Lawyers representing 35 students who say they were abused by a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School want to pull out of settlement negotiations with LAUSD.

The attorneys - Luis Carrillo and Brian Claypool - said the school district is not making much of an effort to compensate the children who they said were victimized by Mark Berndt. Berndt is facing 23 criminal charges for feeding some of his students cookies laced with his own body fluids.

“We spent three full days in mediation, as did Mr. Carillo’s group of clients and I think only three offers were made and they were insignificant," Claypool said at a press conference in Pasadena.

LAUSD general counsel David Holmquist said the attorneys' complaints are unfounded.

“We have been working with counsel for all parties involved, including Mr. Claypool and Mr. Carrillo, to develop a reasonable and fair resolution process and reach resolutions that provide for the ongoing educational and health needs of the students," he said in a written statement.


Moms of alleged Miramonte Elementary victims say they're traumatized, file suit

Miramonte Elementary School

Grant Slater/KPCC

Parents of students at Miramonte Elementary School escort children out of school on Feb. 6, 2012.

The mothers of young girls who say they are victims of a teacher’s lewd and lascivious acts at Miramonte Elementary School are suing the LA Unified School District.  Their attorney is Luis Carrillo, who’s also representing 22 former students at the school in a separate legal action.

At his South Pasadena office, Carrillo sat flanked by a pair of his clients – two emotional women speaking in Spanish about their daughters’ connection to Mark Berndt. He’s the LA Unified School District teacher accused of feeding some of his students cookies laced with his own body fluids - and then taking pictures of it. 

Elvia Campos is one of Carillo’s clients. She said her daughter often went to Berndt’s classroom after school to help clean up. The teacher would lavish her daughter with compliments, telling her she was a good girl, an intelligent girl, said Campos smearing her thick black eyeliner as she wiped tears from her eyes.
Campos and 13 other women are suing LA Unified and two of Miramonte’s former principals. They say they want the school district to pay for therapy for their children, but they did not say what other damages they might ask for.
John Henrichs works with Carrillo, representing the mothers.
At a press conference he said: “The moms have been traumatized and normally under the law a parent of a victim is not entitled to any type of recovery. However, if there’s a special relationship, which we’re alleging in this case there is because the school district has a special relationship to take care of the safety of the children, that that entitles the parents to come forward and seek justice for themselves here and get their own therapy.”
Carrillo says the children and their mothers have been in intensive therapy since the day after finding out about Berndt’s alleged crimes.
The 61-year-old Berndt taught at LA Unified’s Miramonte Elementary for more than 30 years. He was arrested in February after a yearlong investigation that was triggered when a photo lab worker told authorities about pictures Berndt brought in for processing: photos of kids with cockroaches on their faces, eating cookies topped with a white substance, sometimes bound and blindfolded. Berndt is charged with 23 counts of lewd acts against children.
In a separate case, another Miramonte was arrested and charged with two counts of lewd acts. Martin Bernard Springer is under house arrest with an ankle bracelet, while Berndt remains in jail.

LA County Sheriff’s Sergeant Dan Scott says the Berndt investigation has been wide-ranging. Scott said detectives in the Special Victims Unit have “identified and interviewed approximately 285 children. And they have all been interviewed and statements documented and that information has been turned over to the district attorney.”
Investigators have also concluded interviews in the Springer case.