The site of the school sex scandal – Miramonte Elementary School
Amid the Miramonte School accusations, parents protest, while the school reshuffles personnel causing many to ask more questions.
The sordid and tense scandal at Miramonte School took a sharp turn as all-new personnel were put into place as of today. The shocking information was announced on Tuesday to many of the parents’ disapproval. From the principal to the janitor, 120-staff members have been replaced at the elementary school. This move is the LAUSD latest attempt to both safeguard the original staff and proceed with further investigations.
These actions come from the shocking allegations made against Miramonte teachers, Paul Berndt, 61, and Martin Springer, 49, who were arrested in their classrooms last week after an investigation by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department disclosed allegations that both teachers had indulged in inappropriate conduct with students as young as six years of age.
Berndt, who had worked at the school for 32 years, was arrested Monday, Jan. 30 on charges of lewd conduct with 23 children. He was charged with committing lewd acts with children ranging in age from six to 10 between 2005 and 2010.
Berndt’s alleged acts included blindfolding the children and feeding them his own semen in what children were allegedly told was a “tasting game.” An investigation was launched after a film processor at a Redondo Beach CVS turned over photos to police showing blindfolded children with their mouths taped and cockroaches on their faces.
Springer was arrested on suspicion of fondling two female students in his classroom.
Angry parents rallied in front of the school Monday alleging that the administration failed to protect their children. Hundreds of parents, children and supporters marched to South Region High School #2 auditorium Monday evening to attend a public hearing held by LAUSD officials.
LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia issued a statement that read the district is appalled and devastated to learn of the allegations.
“We are appalled, extremely saddened and devastated to learn of the allegations and events involving teachers at Miramonte Elementary School. Such events should never happen, and when they do occur, we all feel the pain.
“The safety of LAUSD’s students is the priority of this Board and our District. We thank the parents who are working with us. At difficult moments such as these, we need parents to continue being involved. Our hearts and minds are with the Miramonte School community, and we will direct every available resource to assist those most directly affected by these unspeakable acts.
“The Board is thankful, confident and supportive of how Superintendent John Deasy is handling the situation. The Board has directed Superintendent Deasy to continue to work diligently with the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department, LAUSD Crisis Counseling Intervention Services and other agencies to provide the necessary support to the parents and students affected.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, angry parents confronted LAUSD officials and said they had questions about the incidents and the investigation. Although a few of the questions were answered, shouting erupted at the meeting as parents demanded more answers.
Parents of several alleged victims said they are already seeking legal action. It is alleged that some of the victims notified a school counselor about the alleged abuse, but weren’t taken seriously and were reportedly told, “It’s not very good to make things up.”
Several parents expressed their opinion that there was a cover-up and approached attorneys at the meeting to request business cards.
“When I heard about Mr. Berndt being arrested, I was in shock. I knew him. And then when I heard about Mr. Springer, I couldn’t believe it. My daughter was in Mr. Springer’s class in the fourth grade. It is so disgusting what they were giving those kids. Now the kids have to be tested for syphilis, HIV and gonorrhea. I’m sad, I’m mad and it is just disgusting. They stole our children’s innocence.”
-Nancy Linares, parent at Miramonte Monday morning
“We teach the kids to trust their teachers and to do what they say. This teacher was blindfolding the children and putting cookies with semen on it in their mouths. Who are the children going to trust after this tragedy?”
“I was a student here from kindergarten to 6th grade. It was one of the best experiences of my life. When I heard about the two teachers who were arrested, I felt sad and disgusted. I think they should start putting cameras in the classroom. Everyone is watching what’s happening here (at Miramonte). It is not an isolated incident. It (abuse) is going on all over the nation.
“You have to stay vigilant and when your children come home, ask them questions. Not just about academics, but ask them about new games they never played or a new room they may have been placed in.”
-Weezie Bolden, 56
According to a statement from Sandi Gibbons, Director of Communications Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. The L.A. Sheriff’s department investigated alleged incidents against Berndt in September of 1993. In 1994, the District Attorney’s Office stated there was insufficient evidence to prove anything had occurred.
“Mr. Springer would touch me before it was time for my mom to pick me up from school.”
-Jarelin, age 14, former student at Miramonte, said Monday morning