One LAUSD father is crying foul against the district after his daughters were sent home with a memo about the Miramonte School sex abuse scandal.
The letter to parents, which includes details about how Miramonte students were blindfolded and had cockroaches placed on them, was written by Rosewood Avenue Elementary Principal Linda Crowder and sent home with all her students on Monday for parents to read.
From the letter, which appears in full below:
As I reflect on the disturbing occurrences at Miramonte, I am more confused over the fact that the children did not report. How is it that the children did not believe that what the teacher was doing to them was wrong? How could being blindfolded, placed in a closet, and having cockroaches placed on them not be wrong? I believe that the teachers involved in these heinous acts preyed on the most vulnerable of the children; children of poverty, children of abuse, children with uninvolved parents, and children of undocumented parents.
Tim Cavanaugh, whose daughters go to Rosewood Elementary school, accuses Principal Crowder of blaming Miramonte students for being victimized. He also takes issue with Principal Crowder's "insistence on repeating lurid details" in a memo carried home by children.
In a blog for Reason.com, Cavanaugh writes, "There is no way around the logic: She is arguing that it was the kids’ fault for not reporting the incident. And since public school is a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims, the children are also described as victims who have suffered from the depredations of poverty and abuse, of 'uninvolved' and undocumented parents."
Cavanaugh also points out something that has been widely reported but does not appear in Crowder's letter: Students had indeed complained about teacher Mark Berndt, who stands accused of lewd acts against dozens of students.
A former student who is now in her 30s complained to her counselor during the 1990-91 school year about how Berndt would move his hands under his desk, near his lap, reports the Los Angeles Times. The student also noted that Berndt kept a jar of Vaseline in his desk. The counselor's response at the time? "It's not very good to make stories up."
A more charitable explanation for the parents memo is that Principal Crowder is heartbroken over the Miramonte mess and eager to prevent a similar tragedy at her own school.
In fact, the first half of her letter to parents is a very thoughtful analysis of the staffing structures in place at Miramonte that would have helped a pedophile "get lost in a Miramonte environment."
According to Crowder, the year-round school calendar (to prevent overcrowding in the second largest elementary school in California) prevented teachers from getting to know each other because "staff are continually on and off track," and "when professional development takes place not all teachers are in attendance."
The fact that Miramonte Elementary is a year-round school with multiple tracks has not been addressed during the district's efforts to reform the school. Superintendent Deasy's dramatic decision to replace every single faculty member from Miramonte still leaves the track system in place, potentially fostering another environment in which a new teacher pedophile could "get lost."
The Huffington Post has reached out to both Principal Crowder and the LAUSD, and this story will be updated if they respond.
The Huffington Post was able to obtain a copy of Principal Crowder's letter. Let us know in the comments below: Did Principal Crowder inadvertently blame the victims of Miramonte Elementary school for what happened to them?