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Miramonte mothers file suit for negligence against LAUSD

Juliana D. Norwood | 7/11/2012, 5 p.m.

More than a dozen mothers of former Miramonte Elementary School students have sued Los Angeles Unified for negligence, claiming their lives also were affected by the acts of a teacher accused of lewd conduct with their children.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and comes two months after another suit was filed on behalf of 20 offspring of the plaintiffs in the latest case.

Plaintiffs' attorney Luis Carrillo told reporters that of the students his firm represents, the Miramonte case occurred in 2002. "So, if the district had been doing their job, they would have remedied the situation. They would have removed this teacher from Miramonte, and we wouldn't have had all these tragedies," Carrillo said.

Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt is alleged to have committed the lewd acts against the children.

"Mark Berndt engaged in acts with the children of plaintiffs to satisfy (his) perverted sexual appetite and took photographs of the children . . . ," the suit states. "Mark Berndt used his power as a teacher to sexually abuse the children of plaintiffs during school hours at Miramonte Elementary School."

The alleged abuses occurred from 2002-11 and LAUSD officials knew as early as the 1990-91 school year that Berndt was involved in sexual misconduct, according to the lawsuit.

LAUSD general counsel David Holmquist issued a statement in reaction to the suit.

"The district is committed to working with the Miramonte community and everyone impacted by these incidents to improve trust and promote healing," he said. "While the district has yet to receive the latest complaint, we are continuing our efforts to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide a safe learning and working environment for our students and staff."

Berndt, 61, of Torrance, is charged with 23 counts of committing a lewd act on a child between 2005 and 2011. The charges involve 23 children who were 7 to 10 years old. Prosecutors contend he took photos of children who were unknowingly being spoon-fed bodily fluids or eating semen-tainted cookies.

City News Service contributed to this story.