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Teachers and staff return to Miramonte School in South LA

Miramonte Elementary School is the center of a scandal where two teachers have been accused of engaging in lewd acts with students.
Miramonte Elementary School is the center of a scandal where two teachers have been accused of engaging in lewd acts with students.
Grant Slater/KPCC

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Back to school day in Los Angeles is business as usual, for the most part. But not at the Miramonte School in South LA. Last year two teachers there were accused of sexually abusing children. The school district responded to the scandal by replacing the entire staff at Miramonte.

Now, the elementary school is undergoing something of a reboot; there's a new principal, and a majority of the former teachers are returning.

KPCC's education reporter Vanessa Romo, who has been covering this story since the allegations of abuse surfaced early last year, joins the show to discuss the atmosphere at Miramonte Elementary on its first day of school.

On the allegations that started the scandal:
"Two separate teachers were accused with lewd conduct. One of them is Mark Berdnt, who is probably the more notorious [of the two teachers accused of lewd conduct]. He was accused of violating 23 different children, [which included] taking pictures of them with their hands taped together, and allegedly tricking them into eating bodily fluids."

On the mood at Miramonte Elementary:
“It’s surprisingly calm and quiet here today, which is a drastic contrast from some of my other visits to the school early last year, when parents were protesting and carrying signs, and utterly dismayed. It’s still the first day of school, so some of the younger kids are nervous and holding onto their parents.”

On what happened to Miramonte staff?:
“Everyone who worked here last year, from teachers to custodians to volunteers, were removed from the school, and placed in a waiting room at another school that hadn’t been opened, while the investigation continued. There were about 76 teachers in that group. Today, 42 are back in the classroom in Miramonte, which seems to be making parents happier.

On why Miramonte has 500 fewer students this year:
"A new school opened up in the neighborhood, called Dr. Lawrence H. Moore Math, Science, Technology Academy, accepting students from nearby elementary schools, and has relieved the overcrowding problem in the neighborhood, and especially at Miramonte, which was one of the most overcrowded schools in the district."

Read Vanessa Romo's report on KPCC, Former Miramonte Elementary teachers return as school opens for the new year, for more details.


Vanessa Romo, KPCC education reporter