Patt Morrison for January 31, 2012

Torrance ex-schoolteacher formally charged with molestation; how do school communities recover when abusers are discovered?

Mark Berndt

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

After a year-long investigation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has arrested and charged former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, of the Florence Firestone unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, with molesting 23 children between the ages of 7 and 10. A photolab employee had turned in photographs belonging to Berndt of school children with their mouths covered in tape and eyes blindfolded, possibly inside a classroom. Over 300 similar photographs were discovered in Berndt’s home. The molestation apparently occurred over a three year period, although no child ever reported the abuse. The Los Angeles Unified School District is still looking for help identifying about ten of the victims; Superintendent John Deasy has also issued a statement condemning Berndt. Over the last year, the LAUSD has provided counseling and support services for the victims.

WEIGH IN:

How should situations such as this be approached so as not to cause panic and fear in our school systems? How can a community recover from this type of breach of trust?

Guest:

Steve Whitmore, spokesperson, LA County Sheriff's Department

John Deasy, LAUSD Superintendent

Robert Land, psychologist who specializes in male sexual offenders

Astrid Heger, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of USC; Executive Director, Violence Intervention Program, Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center


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