LA Miramonte school suspends entire faculty over sex abuse claims
Two teachers are accused of committing lewd acts on children, leading to extraordinary move by district
The entire teaching staff has been suspended at Miramonte elementary school in Los Angeles, where two teachers have been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing children.
The Los Angeles school superintendent, John Deasy, announced the extraordinary move, telling parents that replacement teachers would be taking over classrooms and psychiatric social workers would be placed with each class to help students and staff.
Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt was charged last week with committing lewd acts on 23 children, while Martin Springer was arrested on Friday suspected of abusing two girls in his classroom.
Berndt, who worked at the school for 32 years, abused children of ages six to 10 between 2005 and 2010, it is alleged. The acts cited by authorities include blindfolding children in a classroom and feeding them his semen in what children were allegedly told was a tasting game.
Berndt, 61, remains jailed on $23m (£14m) bail and could face life in prison if convicted. Springer, 49, is being held on $2m bail.
Springer taught at Miramonte for his entire career, which started in 1986, the district said. He taught second grade. The school board is scheduled to discuss firing him in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
Investigators said they knew of no connection between the Miramonte cases, though the Los Angeles Times said Berndt and Springer knew each other and had taken their classes on at least two joint field trips in the past decade.
More than a quarter of the students at Miramonte were absent on Monday while parents demanded more protection at the school.
About three dozen parents and supporters protested in front of the main doors of the school, some carrying a banner that read: “We the parents demand our children be protected from lewd teacher acts.”
Maria Jimenez, 51, said the parents whose children are enrolled at Miramonte were divided over the removal of the entire staff. “Some are in favour. Others are against it because they did this without advising us or consulting us,” Jimenez said.