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LAUSD settles 58 claims of alleged sexual abuse

City News Service | 3/12/2013, 12:50 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, calif.--The Los Angeles Unified School District announced today it has settled 58 legal claims alleging sexual abuse of students at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles.

The district described the settlements as a multimillion-dollar deal, but declined to provide an exact figure until the amounts were approved in court.

NBC4 reported that the settlements ranged from about $400,000 to $500,000 for each plaintiff.

The settlements announced today resolve only a portion of the roughly 190 lawsuits and legal claims against the district stemming from abuse allegations at Miramonte.

Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt is accused of carrying out most of the abuse. He is awaiting trial on nearly two dozen counts of lewd acts with children. He allegedly took photos of children with semen-tainted spoons or cookies held to their mouths.

Another former Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, is awaiting trial on three felony counts of lewd acts with a child.

Some attorneys representing former students and Miramonte parents are continuing to press their legal actions against the district.

Attorney Luis Carrillo said the district has not made any "fair" settlement offers to his clients. He noted that a forensic psychologist for the plaintiffs has opined that the children will need about $576,000 just to cover the cost of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders.

Carrillo also said the district has not responded to 11 proposals for improving the safety of children.

District officials have said previously they were working to settle the cases. While those talks were continuing, a hold had been put on pending lawsuits, but a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in December lifted the stay after attorneys complained that the district was not making realistic offers to
settle the cases.

Former state Supreme Court Judge Cruz Reynoso was acting as a mediator in the settlement talks.

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

District officials, while not commenting on specific lawsuits, have repeatedly insisted that it was committed to providing a safe environment for students and conducted a major review of how it handles abuse allegations.

"Appropriately addressing misconduct continues to remain a top priority," LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist said in January. "That is why we have continually engaged in extensive internal and external reviews of our policies and practices, including actively participating in the comprehensive state audit of the school district's policies and practices that was released in 2012."