Los Angeles Teacher Charged With Molesting 23 ChildrenMarch 13, 2012 The community of the unincorporated Florence-Firestone area in South Los Angeles was outraged when Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested and charged last month with lewd acts on 23 children. The public had not been informed of the year-long child molestation investigation conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sexual Crimes Unit at the Miramonte Elementary School. Last year, a film processor developed inappropriate photographs taken by Mark Berndt and immediately alerted the authorities. A total of 390 photographs were found in the film store and retrieved from Berndt's home. All of the photos were taken inside a classroom on school premises. Some showed children blindfolded with their mouths taped shut, while other depicted children with large Madagascar cockroaches on their faces. Moreover, several pictures depicted girls with a blue plastic spoon containing a white substance, appearing to be sperm, very close to their mouths, as if they were going to ingest it. Detectives from the Special Victims Bureau retrieved a blue spoon from the trash in the Berndt’s classroom. It tested positive for semen that matched Berndt’s DNA. Twenty-three children, ages 7 to 10, have been identified in the photos; another ten have not yet been identified. Investigators are seeking the public’s help in identifying those students, along with other possible additional victims. The problem they face is parents not reporting sexual abuse because of a fear of deportation. Unfortunately, their fear is not unfounded. However, Sheriff Lee Baca has promised that anyone coming forward with information will not be asked their legal immigration status. Berndt was fired in March of 2011 after officials learned of the investigation. He negotiated a settlement of $40,000 for backpay and health benefits, and receives a state pension of nearly $4,000 a month – as well as lifetime health benefits from the Los Angeles Unified School District. The school district responded to the arrest of Mark Berdnt by closing the Miramonte Elementary School for two days and replacing every teacher, administrator and support staff, totaling 128 people. The LA Board of Education is scheduled to meet Tuesday, March 20th, to discuss proposals making it easier to fire employees accused of misconduct and to inform parents about those employees. For information and tips on how to protect your children online, see Travis Morgan’s book titled “Catch Me If You Know How - Internet Edition” or visit the “Catch Me If You Know How” website at http://www.CatchMeIfYouKnowHow.com.
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