The entire staff of the Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles is being replaced this week while police and school officials investigate allegations that a third grade teacher blindfolded 23 children and fed them his own semen and a second teacher fondled two 7-year-old students.
Los Angeles School District Superintendent John Deasy told parents that the school’s 88 teachers and 40 support staff would be put on paid leave and replaced because the investigation would be too disruptive if conducted while they were working. Miramonte Elementary will be shut down until Thursday, when the new teachers and staff will begin work. In addition, every classroom will have a social worker on hand to help students, mostly Latino kids with Spanish-speaking parents, and teachers cope with the swirl of crazy surrounding their school.
In the meantime, teacher Mark Berndt, 61, is being held on $23 million bail on charges he carried out lewd acts on 23 boys and girls, ages six and 10, between 2008 and 2010, at Miramonte Elementary School, where he taught for more than 30 years. He was fired in January 2011 when school officials learned police were investigating him for child abuse. Police were tipped off by a CVS photo technician who reported seeing pictures of children blindfolded with clear tape over their mouths. According to The Associated Press, further investigation revealed the shocking allegations:
Authorities say that after locking his classroom door, Berndt would tell the children they were playing a game in which they were blindfolded and their mouths taped shut. Other times he would have them take part in a “taste test” in which authorities say he would feed them his sperm after he’d placed it on a cookie or spoon. They say he also put a large cockroach on the faces of some children.
Berndt faces life in prison if convicted. Teacher Martin Springer, 49, is being held on $2 million bail on suspicion of fondling two girls in his classroom.
My God—I can’t even begin to fathom the rage the parents of these babies must feel, knowing that this lunatic was running amok in their children’s school. My heart alternately aches for them and hardens with outrage over this. I mean, I’m the mother of a 4th grader—a child who, at age nine, can’t even watch the news because in her young mind, every bad thing that happens in the world feels like it’s happening right down the street. The idea that something so cruel, so inhuman could happen right there at her school desk is unfathomable; it’s the one place outside our little safe family cocoon where she is supposed to be safe.
And then you read something like this.
I swear, stories like the one at that Los Angeles school and the monster teachers who are accused of such heinous acts make me want to lock the doors, grab my babies, run them down to the basement and never let them leave the house. I mean, if you can’t trust a third grade teacher, who can you trust? My prayer is that each of the children of Miramonte Elementary School receives peace and every last one of their parents gets justice.
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