The Miramonte Elementary School Sexual Abuse Tragedy
Sexual abuse is heartbreaking for any victim, but especially more tragic for younger children. Sexual abuse can happen in any setting and by anyone, even those who we trust, like teachers. The Miramonte Elementary sexual abuse case is one of the most distressing stories of child sexual abuse that has impacted thousands of young students for more than 30 years.
In response to the abuse, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), claiming the sexual abuse of innocent school children who had their trust violated by one of the district’s employees. The school district has settled most of its claims and most recently avoided going to trial by paying a record $139 million to more than 70 victims.
The Miramonte Sexual Abuse Story
In 2012, LAUSD and the public were shocked and disgusted to learn about the misconduct of Mark Berndt, a long-time teacher at an LAUSD school, Miramonte Elementary School. Although LAUSD did not know about Berndt’s lewd behavior, the district had an obligation to protect its students.
The investigation of Berndt began when a film processor turned over more than 40 photographs of children in a classroom. The mouths of these young, school-aged victims were covered with tape, while their eyes were blindfolded. Some photographs revealed the children’s faces covered with large cockroaches. Other showed Berndt’s hands around the children and his hands over their mouths.
More vulgar photographs portrayed girls holding blue plastic spoons up to their mouths, filled with an unknown clear/white liquid substance. Identical blue plastic spoons were later found by sheriff investigators in a trashcan in Berndt’s classroom, testing positive with Berndt’s semen. Berndt had convinced his innocent students they were playing a tasting game when he allegedly had them eat cookies laced with his semen.
Thorough investigations and sufficient evidence led to the arrest of Berndt. After pleading no contest to 23 counts of lewd conduct with a child between 2005 and 2010, Berndt was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
LAUSD’s Poorly Handled the Case
Berndt was hired by LAUSD as a teacher in 1976. His record during his nearly 35 years at the school district, however, was not clean. A number of his students repeatedly complained of Berndt’s unusual or sexually tinged behavior. However, LAUSD did not take any of these complaints seriously. These were all warning signs that the district was too quick to dismiss without proper investigation and without giving sufficient weight to the allegations simply because they came from young children.
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Berndt continued to sexually abuse and assault numerous innocent children for more than three decades. While LAUSD argues that Berndt went to extreme lengths to hide his conduct, it does not dismiss the fact that the district is responsible for the actions of its employees and the resulting harm to the students it was supposed to protect from such harm.
The disastrous sexual abuse at Miramonte Elementary is proof that LAUSD has been negligent, leaving the emotionally and psychologically scarred children with no choice but to hire experienced sexual abuse attorneys to protect their legal rights. The $169 million, plus $11 million in legal fees, that LAUSD has thus far paid to settle these claims may seem like a lot of money. However, it will not erase the horrendous acts suffered by the innocent students at Miramonte. It will not take away their continued nightmares. And it will definitely not bring back their innocent and forever damaged childhood.
Legal Help for Sexually Abused Children
When you place your child in the care of another individual or institution, they have the burden and responsibility to properly care and supervise your young loved one. If you suspect that your child was sexually abused, molested, or assaulted while at school or at day care, it is important to take immediate action. You have the right to seek monetary damages for the costs of your child’s care as a result of the abuse or negligence.
Most of us believe that the criminal process will attain justice in a child abuse case. However, what we may not realize is that criminal proceedings are only designed to punish the perpetrator of abuse. The criminal process has no bearing on schools or the organizations that knew or should have known they had a dangerous employee working for them, but yet failed to properly prevent the employee from harming the children.
Call an Experienced Los Angeles Child Abuse Attorney Today
If you or a young loved one has been the victim of child abuse at school, you should know that the attack was not your fault. If you know someone who has been a victim of abuse, we can help. We have successfully handled sexual abuse cases for innocent victims at Miramonte Elementary School, as well as in other situations. If you suspect your loved one has been abused, we can compassionately, yet aggressively, provide you the legal help that you need.
At the Law Offices of Vahdat & Associate, our school child abuse attorneys can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Our experienced lawyers will handle your case with the gentle hands these delicate situations demand. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with attorney Ghazal Amy Vahdat, please call us at (888) 523-1698.