Los Angeles Unified has paid out more than $27 million to settle claims by nearly five dozen children who allege they were molested by former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, the district announced Tuesday.
The 58 settlements were reached earlier this year, and are among 63 cases that have been resolved in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that triggered a slate of new district policies designed to protect student safety.
Two additional cases have been settled and are awaiting a judge's OK for payment, a district spokesman said.
About 68 other sex-abuse claims related to alleged abuse by Berndt remain unresolved.
The settlements total $30 million, giving each child roughly $470,000. The money will be invested in structured settlements arranged by the children's attorneys to ensure their long-term costs are covered.
"Resolving these cases in a way that provides for future health and educational needs was our top priority," said David Holmquist, the district's general counsel. "We are glad that these funds will go directly to the students, as opposed to being consumed by costly and lengthy litigation. We want to thank the plaintiffs and counsel who worked with us through this process and reached a settlement that is in the best interest of the children and families they represent."
The money will be paid from the district's general fund while it pursues reimbursement from its insurance companies. One of its carriers has filed suit, maintaining that the sex-abuse settlements are not covered by the district's policies.
Berndt is accused of feeding his own semen to 23 children while teaching at Miramonte in Wilmington. He has pleaded not guilt and remains jailed in lieu of $23 million bail, pending a preliminary hearing.
Berndt was fired by LAUSD, then given a $40,000 payout to drop an appeal of his termination. ___