More than $139 million is to be paid by the Los Angeles Unified School district to the victims of an elementary school teacher that abused children for over three decades.
The huge settlement payout of $139 million is the highest payout ever recorded in such a school sex abuse case and it involves 81 students that were molested by the teacher. When combined with a previous settlement payout of $30 million, involving 65 other cases, this scandal cost the district almost $170 million.
Mark Berndt, teacher at the Miramonte Elementary School, was arrested back in 2012 and charged with blindfolding students while feeding them his semen on cookies or spoons. The case was brought to the authorities after a young photo processor contacted the officials over some photographs with blindfolded children consuming some sort of substance.
When the 19-year-old woman, who had been working with CVS for not even a month, confronted her supervisors over the disturbing pictures, she learned that she should not call the police and that similar pictures were processed there since 2005. However, she made the right choice and called the authorities. Berndt is no longer behind a school desk, but behind bars because of her wise decision.
Now, the lawyers involved in the case are trying to bring forward new evidence which suggest that the school district was being aware of the teacher’s sexual misconduct and that his behavior went on for more than three decades.
Even though this was not the first time a settlement payout was offered to the defense lawyers, this is the first time they have accepted it. They noted that they rejected previous settlements because they wanted to uncover what was actually going on in Miramonte Elementary School.
They soon uncovered more than a dozen cases in which Berndt is involved and found out that the incidents happened between 1983 and 2009. Several students, parents, teachers and members of the school’s staff reported the teacher’s misconduct behavior. However, no action was taken to either investigate further into the cases or to remove Berndt from the school.
It took so long for the authorities to finally be able to convict the abuser because the majority of the students who were abused by Berndt came from poor Hispanic homes. The parents were hesitant when it came to talking bad about teachers – given that they had a deep respect for them – and they avoided cooperation with the law enforcement due to the fear of getting deported.
Berndt has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. He is currently 63 years old.