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Mark Berndt Arrested: Miramonte School Parents & Officials Meet To Discuss Charges

Mark Berndt Arrested Miramonte

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 02/ 1/2012 2:16 pm Updated: 02/ 2/2012 9:36 am

Former Los Angeles teacher Mark Berndt appeared in court on Wednesday on charges of spoon-feeding his semen to children at Miramonte Elementary School, and parents are questioning why they weren't alerted when the investigation first came to light in late 2010.

Sources tell Fox News correspondent Gigi Graciette that a Wednesday morning meeting between parents, school officials and police at the school attracted over 200 attendees, and that at atmosphere of calm is "turning to anger." Graciette tweeted, "ANGER has erupted at parent meeting at Miramonte Elem over charges teacher abused students there."

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Meanwhile, NBC LA correspondent Antonio Castelan tweets from the scene that Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy "stresses school could not address parents of investigation" because investigators needed time to build a criminal case against the teacher.

The District claims that they offered support and services to the children they were able to identify in Berndt's bondage photos depicting students gagged or about to ingest a clear white liquid, but there are still several more students whose names are unknown. And since school officials chose not to notify all the school parents about the photos, any opportunity for those unknown students to come forward has been suppressed until now. This final fact is disturbing, especially considering that testing for sexually transmitted diseases was recommended for all victims.

Miramonte Principal Martin Sandoval and Deasy expressed his sympathy to the victims and their families, but parents are saying it isn't enough.

When Berndt was first arrested, Gloria Polanco, the mother of a second- and third-grader at Miramonte, expressed her concern to the Associated Press. "My concern is why, if the principal knew this in advance, why didn't he inform us?," asked Polanco. "How long has he been doing this?"

Kimberly Kirklin, another mother whose teen daughter is a former student of Berndt, told AP, "My children won't be coming back here... He preyed on our innocents. He tainted a whole neighborhood."

Carlos Ramirez, the father of 5- and 7-year-old students at Miramonte, said to the Los Angeles Times in Spanish that he "doesn't have any confidence in the school anymore."

In December 2010, investigators from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department came into possession of Berndt's "bondage" photos. The pictures showed children gagged and bound, sometimes with live cockroaches on their faces or about to eat a cookie covered in a clear white liquid.

After Deasy learned of the investigation in January 2011, he removed Berndt from the classroom that same day. But instead of notifying parents at Miramonte for the reason of Berndt's firing, the District kept silent for thirteen months as investigators built a criminal case. The prolonged criminal investigation yielded a discarded spoon in Berndt's classroom, which tested positive for his semen. Without this physical evidence, investigators claim, they would have only been able to charge the teacher with a misdemeanor.

In between his January 2011 dismissal and his arrest this week, Berndt lived in his Torrance apartment and was kept under surveillance to make sure he wasn't a threat to anyone. However, his neighbor tells KTLA that he saw Berndt on at least one occasion riding a tandem bike with a little girl.

Berndt has been teaching at the school since 1979, but the lewd acts in question took place between 2008 and 2010, according to authorities.

UPDATE: The forum between parents and officials erupted into angry shouts when school and police officials confirmed that the case was handled according to procedure. Investigators also confirmed that parents were kept in the dark about the photos because they didn't want to compromise the investigation.

Aol Latino journalist Jorge Luis Macias was at the forum and spoke to parents after the meeting disbanded. As she was leaving the school grounds, parent Alicia Parra said of the suspect, "This kind of person should be sentenced to capital punishment." Parra also commented that even though she was leaving the meeting in a calmer state than when she first arrived, she couldn't stop "thinking of the damage that he's caused to so many children."

Allice Winfield, who was there are the school to pick up her grandson, told Aol Latino that Miramonte Elementary was playing "macabre games" with children's lives. "The school had a great threat, and they never told anything to anybody."

"How could it be possible that this man has been in this school for more than 30 years and no one ever realized anything?" questioned Mirna Enriquez, the mother of a third grader at the school. "Only thinking about what this teacher has done makes me want to vomit," she said to Aol Latino.

Since news of the allegations against Berndt were made public on Tuesday, at least five more victims have contacted the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, reports the Los Angeles Times. Two former students are also claiming that they reported their teacher's strange behavior to school officials decades ago, but nothing ever came of it.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post has confirmed with the Los Angeles Unified School District that Berndt will receive full benefits and pension.

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  • Nine-year-old Ashley Villatoro, left, holds a poster showing an image of former teacher Martin B. Springer as students arrive at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. Children are returning to the school where the entire staff has been replaced following the arrests of two former teachers on charges of committing lewd acts with students in class. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Nine-year-old Ruby Garduno, right, holds a sign as students enter Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Kathryn Kidd, center, distribute bracelets to students outside Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Nine-year-old Ashley Villatoro, center, holds a sign showing images of former teacher Martin B. Springer outside Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • An adult accompanies two students into Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • A mother who declined to give her name walks with her daughter outside Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Los Angeles Unified School District administrators, counselors and new teachers gather at the Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. Allegations of teacher lewd behavior comes as school district administrators move to replace the entire staff at Miramonte Elementary School while the Los Angeles Unified School District investigates two teachers arrested last week. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Student Stephanie Perez, left, reacts, as she demands to keep her teacher, along with friend, Ruby Garduno, as some parents gather to show support for teachers outside the Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. Allegations of teacher lewd behavior comes as school district administrators move to replace the entire staff at Miramonte Elementary School while the Los Angeles Unified School District investigates two teachers arrested last week. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Los Angeles Unified School District board president Monica Garcia makes a statement following a closed-door meeting of the Board of Education in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. Prosecutors have filed a lewd-acts complaint against the second of two teachers removed from a Los Angeles-area elementary school, and the Board voted to fire him in the closed-door meeting. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • With portraits of school children behind him, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy takes his seat following a closed-door meeting of the Board of Education in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • Parent Maria Guadalupe Garcia holds a sign reading in Spanish: " We don't want new teachers," as some parents protest replacing the staff outside the Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Parents and others protest outside Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. About three dozen parents and supporters staged a protest at the Los Angeles-area school rocked by allegations of lewd conduct crimes by two teachers against children. They demanded greater communication with education officials and the placement of cameras in classrooms and hallways at Miramonte Elementary School. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Ivis Urbina, right, with her granddaughter Alexa Agillon, 6, protest with others outside Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. About three dozen parents and supporters staged a protest at the Los Angeles-area school rocked by allegations of lewd conduct crimes by two teachers against children. They demanded greater communication with education officials and the placement of cameras in classrooms and hallways at Miramonte Elementary School. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Los Angeles Unified School District police guard the front door of Miramonte Elementary school as parents protest outside in Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. About three dozen parents and supporters staged a protest at the Los Angeles-area school rocked by allegations of lewd conduct crimes by two teachers against children. They demanded greater communication with education officials and the placement of cameras in classrooms and hallways at Miramonte Elementary School. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Parents bring their children to school as others protest outside Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. About three dozen parents and supporters staged a protest at the Los Angeles-area school rocked by allegations of lewd conduct crimes by two teachers against children. They demanded greater communication with education officials and the placement of cameras in classrooms and hallways at Miramonte Elementary School. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Edgar Flores, right, encourages other parents to join a protest outside Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. About three dozen parents and supporters staged a protest at the Los Angeles-area school rocked by allegations of lewd conduct crimes by two teachers against children. They demanded greater communication with education officials and the placement of cameras in classrooms and hallways at Miramonte Elementary School. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Attorney Luis Carrillo announces a claim against the school district on behalf of Dalia Gutierrez, the mother a girl who was an alleged victim of teacher Mark Berndt between 2008 and 2010, at the Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. Berndt, 61, who worked at the school for 32 years, has charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Dalia Gutierrez wears the coat of her attorney, Luis Carrillo, not shown, before announcing a claim for alleged abuse suffered by her daughter at Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. Teacher Mark Berndt, 61, who worked at the school for 32 years, has charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Yolanda Sanchez talks about what she describes as documented child abuse of her son, outside the Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. About three dozen parents and supporters staged a protest at the Los Angeles-area school rocked by allegations of lewd conduct crimes by two teachers against children. They demanded greater communication with education officials and the placement of cameras in classrooms and hallways at Miramonte Elementary School. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies stand outside Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. About three dozen parents and supporters staged a protest at the Los Angeles-area school rocked by allegations of lewd conduct crimes by two teachers against children. They demanded greater communication with education officials and the placement of cameras in classrooms and hallways at Miramonte Elementary School. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • This 2003 photo provided by Flor Cervantes shows former Miramontes Elementary teacher Mark Berndt with her sister, Angelica Zuniga, then a third-grader, at the school in Los Angeles. Angelica Zuniga, 16, now a high school junior, said Berndt, who is now suspected of taking bondage-style photographs of children in his class, never asked her or others to do anything strange or to play any inappropriate games. (AP Photo/Flor Cervantes)

  • This 2003 photo provided by Flor Cervantes shows former Miramontes Elementary teacher Mark Berndt with her sister, Angelica Zuniga, holding a citizenship diploma given to her by Brendt, at the school in Los Angeles. Angelica Zuniga, 16, now a high school junior, said Berndt, who is suspected of taking bondage-style photographs of children in his class, never asked her or others to do anything strange or to play any inappropriate games. (AP Photo/Flor Cervantes)

  • This 2003 photo provided by Flor Cervantes shows former Miramontes Elementary teacher Mark Berndt with her sister, Angelica Zuniga, then a third-grader, at the school in Los Angeles. Angelica Zuniga, 16, now a high school junior, said Berndt, who is suspected of taking bondage-style photographs of children in his class, never asked her or others to do anything strange or to play any inappropriate games. (AP Photo/Flor Cervantes)

  • Miramonte Elementary school principal Martin Sandoval walks out to address the media outside the school in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. Veteran Miramonte Elementary school teacher Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested on charges of lewd conduct with 23 children after a film processor gave police photos showing blindfolded children with their mouths taped and cockroaches on their faces. Berndt, 61, not seen, was arrested Jan. 30, 2012 and remained jailed Tuesday on $2.3 million bail. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • The Miramonte Elementary school's principal, Martin Sandoval speaks to the media outside his school in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. Veteran Miramontes Elementary school teacher Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested on charges of lewd conduct with 23 children after a film processor gave police photos showing blindfolded children with their mouths taped and cockroaches on their faces. Berndt, 61, not seen, was arrested Jan. 30, and remained jailed Tuesday on $2.3 million bail. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • A student enters into Miramontes Elementary School in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Students are escorted to a waiting bus as they leave Miramonte Elementary school after classes Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Police are seen at the The Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

CORRECTION: This news entry has been updated with the correct dates of the photo discovery and Mark Berndt's removal from the classroom. We regret the error.

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