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

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

Miramonte Elementary School

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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.

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Superintendent John Deasy shakes up LAUSD

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy  sp

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Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012. Deasy earlier informed parents at a community meeting that the district was replacing the entire staff of Miramonte Elementary School in the wake of the arrests of two teachers on lewd conduct charges.

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Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012.

Deasy walks campus

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

Superintendent John Deasy walks through an economics classroom at Los Angeles High School during a surprise visit.

Deasy tours school

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

Superintendent John Deasy takes a phone call in the Dorsey High School courtyard while making a surprise visit to campus.


Faced with a shocking case of a teacher accused of playing classroom sex games with children for years at Miramonte Elementary, Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy delivered another jolt: He removed the school's entire staff — from custodians to the principal — to smash what he called a "culture of silence."

"It was a quick, responsible, responsive action to a heinous situation," he said. "We're not going to spend a long time debating student safety."

The controversial decision underscores the 51-year-old superintendent's shake-up of the lethargic bureaucracy at the nation's second-largest school district. His swift, bold moves have rankled some and won praise from others during his first year of leadership.

Hired with a mandate to boost achievement in the 660,000-pupil Los Angeles Unified School District, Deasy has become known for 18-hour days that involve everything from surprise classroom visits and picking up playground litter to lobbying city elite for donations and blasting Sacramento politicians over funding cuts.

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SB1530 to speed firing of abusive teachers dies in state Assembly committee

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Parents and children protest outside Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, California, February 6, 2012.

bill that would have made it easier to fire a teacher accused of sexually abusing a student died in the California Assembly Education Committee this evening on what one L.A. educator called a "remarkably tragic day for students," after fierce opposition from the California Teachers Association.

The failure of SB1530, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla of Pacoima, ends all three attempts at similar reform this legislative session introduced after a spate of sexual misconduct cases in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The bill would have given school boards the last word in firing teachers accused of "serious and egregious misconduct" — defined as offenses involving drugs or sexual conduct or violence toward children. 

In these instances, what had been decided by a three-person panel called the Commission on Professional Competence would have become an "advisory" decision by an administrative law judge. Evidence more than four years old could have been used in the investigation and during proceedings for such a case.

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California lawmakers discuss bill to speed teacher dismissal

Protestors march near Miramonte Elementa

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

A bill that would make it easier to dismiss a teacher accused of misconduct will be heard by the California Assembly Education Committee today and is being met by strong opposition from the California Teachers Association.

SB1530, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla of Pacoima, would give school boards the last word in firing teachers accused of "serious and egregious misconduct" — offenses of sex, drugs and violence against children.

In these instances what was decided by a three-person panel called the Commission on Professional Competence would be an "advisory" decision by an administrative law judge. Evidence more than four years old could be used in the investigation and during proceedings for such misconduct crimes.

The bill is one of three that remains alive after lawmakers responded to a call by the L.A. Unified school board to change state law governing the dismissal process after a spate of sexual misconduct cases at LAUSD schools.

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LA Unified principals submit 8,300 files of possible unreported misconduct

Miramonte Elementary School

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

So far, L.A. Unified officials have received about 8,300 files from more than 900 school and offices, after principals were ordered to send in any unreported misconduct files from over the last 40 years.

In February, Superintendent John Deasy ordered principals to submit all such files from 1,222 schools and offices by May 30. But that deadline was extended to last Friday. The district is still waiting to hear from 281 schools and offices, said LAUSD spokesman Thomas Waldman.

"The superintendent said, with changes in personnel and principals being cut from schools, he's expecting the rest of the files to come in shortly," Waldman said.

Not all of the files that have been sent in are necessarily "unreported misconduct," as principals may have sent in additional files in order to ensure no possible misconduct slipped through the cracks, officials said.

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