So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Miramonte: Lawyers say Picasso print distressed students; propose reform plan (poll)

Girl Before a Mirror


Picasso's 1932 painting, which is now hanging in New York's Museum of Modern Art. Lawyers point to a print of this painting that hung in a Miramonte classroom.

Lawyers for 24 children who claim sexual abuse at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles said a Picasso print hanging in a classroom was "distressing" to students and suggested an 11-point plan to protect children from future abuse. 

Attorney Luis Carrillo suggested that Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts throughout the state should enact the plan. He sent copies to L.A. Superintendent John Deasy, California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson and federal education secretary Arne Duncan.

The alleged victims’ lawyers also claim that at least one of their clients experienced "suffering" because a print of a Pablo Picasso painting was posted in Mark Berndt’s classroom. Berndt is the former teacher who's accused of abusing 23 students over at least five years.


Miramonte lawsuits are on hold, attorneys hope to settle

Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angel

Krista Kennell/AFP/Getty Images

Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012.

Two lawsuits filed by Miramonte Elementary parents against the LA Unified School District are on hold. The civil suits allege that the district neglected warnings about dozens of alleged child abuse cases.

Attorney Luis Carrillo is the one who pushed for the stay. He says the temporary delay gives his clients a chance to engage in settlement discussions with the school district.

The talks would be facilitated by a mediator and could begin as early as November.

Carrillo also argues the hold will spare alleged victims the emotional distress of going through grueling depositions.

"You have to remember that in a deposition process a child would be asked questions for many hours by opposing attorneys and that’s not helpful to the child," he said in a phone conversation shortly after the ruling.


Q and A with a Miramonte teacher

Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angel

Krista Kennell/AFP/Getty Images

Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012.

When Los Angeles Unified removed two teachers at Miramonte Elementary School amid accusations they'd molested children, the school district also removed the entire teaching and support staff from the campus. For many of them, Tuesday was the first day back in the classroom after six months of district-imposed exile, forbidden from student contact.

Andrea Shaffer and 75 of her colleagues were among them. For months they spent their workdays at a nearby high school passing the time in limbo as they waited to be cleared. On her first day back on the job, I asked Andrea a few questions.

What does it feel like to be back?

Shaffer: "Fabulous! I’ve been in this area for about 12 years. I know a lot of families, and so, I just feel like I’m back home. I started bringing a car-load of boxes last Wednseday. I’ve been working very hard to get books up on the shelf and things cleaned up and everything in order."


Former Miramonte Elementary teachers return as school opens for the new year

Miramonte Elementary School

Grant Slater/KPCC

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

Tuesday is the first day of school for more than 670,000 students enrolled in Los Angeles Unified, and the district is celebrating the grand opening of 20 brand new schools.

In honor of that, Superintendent John Deasy, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other “special guests” will hold a 10 a.m. news conference at the Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy.

The superintendent and other board members are also planning visits to at least 12 other new and existing schools throughout the day.

A district official said Deasy will likely make a stop at Miramonte Elementary School where two teachers were arrested in separate cases over claims of lewd conduct back in February.

Miramonte’s newly appointed school principal, Marta Contreras, said it’s likely to be an emotional morning at the South L.A. school with 45 of 76 of its previous teachers back in the classrooms.


Parents attempt to navigate new school district boundaries

Miramonte Elementary School

Grant Slater/KPCC

Miramonte Elementary School was the center of a scandal wherein two teachers were accused of engaging in lewd acts with students, and were later dismissed.

It’s crunch time for parents of school-age children as many districts gear up for their first day this week, but some families say they’re less worried about finding the right supplies and more worried about finding the right school amid confusing attendance boundaries.

When Liliana Guillen learned her two boys would be transferring from Lillian Street Elementary in South L.A. to the newly-constructed Lawrence Moore just a few blocks away, Guillen was thrilled.

“I went and registered them right away,” she says, in Spanish.

Guillen says she could picture her boys in first and fourth grades, happy in the classrooms and on the playground. 

But, during the summer, the family moved five short blocks south — and that was enough of a jump that LAUSD re-assigned her two boys to Miramonte Elementary, the school which dismissed two teachers suspected of child sexual abuse last school year. Neither Guillen nor her husband, Candido Fabian, are happy about that.

LAUSD maintains an open enrollment policy that allows parents to send their children anywhere in the district. A school representative says that when a new school is built, parents learn in the spring where their children may transfer in the next academic year. There’s also a website they can use to check whether the boundaries for their school’s feeder area have changed.

"The most important thing," Fabian said, "is their safety. And making sure they’re being looked after."

Fabian has already grilled Miramonte's security guard about his schedule, and seemed relieved to know all visitors are required to sign in and show a picture ID before being admitted into the brightly painted two-story school.

Still, the father of two says, if they’d known about the district’s boundary line for the new school, they wouldn’t have moved.