November 23, 2014 Comments Off on Attorney: L.A. schools pay ‘largest’ public settlement for child abuse at $139 million
Attorney: L.A. schools pay ‘largest’ public settlement for child abuse at $139 million
By Michael Martinez, CNN
Fri November 21, 2014
Los Angeles (CNN) — The Los Angeles public school district will pay more than $139.2 million to the families of 81 children allegedly abused by an elementary teacher now serving a prison sentence for lewd conduct, officials said Friday.
John Manly, one of the plaintiffs’ attorney, called the amount “the largest settlement in the history of the United States against a public entity involving child abuse.”
The settlement comes after the district earlier paid $30 million to settle 63 other students’ claims alleging they were victims of sexually lewd acts by Mark Berndt of Miramonte Elementary.
A teacher for 30 years, Berndt is now serving a 25-year prison sentence for putting pupils in bondage, and then photographing them with semen-filled spoons held at their mouths and 3-inch cockroaches crawling across their faces….
Manly contended there were “two perpetrators:” Berndt and “those in successive (school) administrations from 1983 to the present who ignored and in some instances actively concealed what he was doing.”….
Berndt had pleaded no contest to felony lewd acts on 23 children. The scandal led to more than 100 students suing the district, claiming that they, too, were victims….
September 27, 2014 Comments Off on Miramonte: LA school district’s claim it shredded child abuse reports now in question
Miramonte: LA school district’s claim it shredded child abuse reports now in question
Karen Foshay September 25
Questions are being raised about the Los Angeles Unified School District’s claim earlier this year that it shredded 20 years’ worth of suspected child abuse reports in connection with the Miramonte abuse scandal.
In response to a judge’s questions, about 100 current and former members of L.A. Unified’s general counsel’s office said they had no knowledge of the records being destroyed, and district officials have not answered similar questions posed by KPCC.
In April, KPCC was the first to report that LAUSD officials said the suspected child abuse reports, or SCARs, were ordered destroyed in 2008 after the district’s general counsel concluded it was not legally allowed to hold on to them. The records dated back to 1988, according to a district spokesman.
L.A. Unified made its comments about the documents after attorneys representing dozens of children suing the district over the actions of former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt requested that the school district produce all of its suspected child abuse reports.
In November 2013, Berndt pleaded no contest to 23 counts of lewd acts upon a child and was sentenced to 25 years in state prison….
Sandusky Sex Abuse Report: Investigation Into Penn State University’s Role In Child Molestation Case To Be Published Thursday, 14 moms sue LA schools in child abuse case
July 12, 2012 Comments Off on Sandusky Sex Abuse Report: Investigation Into Penn State University’s Role In Child Molestation Case To Be Published Thursday, 14 moms sue LA schools in child abuse case
Sandusky Sex Abuse Report: Investigation Into Penn State University’s Role In Child Molestation Case To Be Published Thursday
Reuters By Ian Simpson 07/10/2012
WASHINGTON, July 10 (Reuters) – An investigation into Penn State University’s role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal will be published on Thursday, and the family of late football coach Joe Paterno has questioned its fairness and confidentiality.
The head of the eight-month probe, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, said on Tuesday its report would be published online at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) on Thursday. He will hold a news briefing at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania State University’s trustees hired Freeh and his law firm to investigate the school’s handling of explosive allegations involving Sandusky, a former assistant coach in the high-powered football program, and university officials.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted last month of 45 counts of child molestation involving 10 boys. Some of the sexual abuse took place at Penn State football facilities.
The charges involving Sandusky prompted the firing in November of university President Graham Spanier and head coach Paterno, who won more games than any other major college football coach. Paterno died of lung cancer in January at age 85.
At the heart of the Freeh probe is how Paterno and other Penn State officials reacted to allegations by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant. McQueary told them in 2001 he had seen Sandusky in a sexual position with a boy in a football locker room, but neither police nor children’s services were informed.
Former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a former university vice president, face charges of perjury and failure to report suspected abuse stemming from the alleged cover-up. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/sandusky-sex-abuse-report-penn-state_n_1663691.html
14 moms sue LA schools in child abuse case By Jonathan Lloyd, NBCLosAngeles.com 7/11/12
Attorneys representing 14 mothers of students at Miramonte Elementary School announced Tuesday the filing of a lawsuit that alleges the school district did not protect their children from a teacher accused of lewd acts involving children.
The lawsuit claims the Los Angeles Unified School District was negligent in the case of former teacher Mark Berndt, charged with lewd acts involving at least 20 children at the school.
Berndt was arrested in January.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday morning, claims the children were sexually abused by Berndt between 2002 and 2011, and that the LAUSD “was negligent and did not protect their children from sexual abuses; and that the Los Angeles Unified School District completely ignored previous complaints,” according to a statement from attorney Luis A. Carrillo.
The charges against Berndt involve 23 children who were 7 to 10 years old. His arrest stemmed from an investigation that began after a film processor — mandated by state law to report child abuse — provided photos to sheriff’s deputies….
Deputies recovered more than 100 similar photos at Berndt’s home, according to investigators. The film processor later discovered more photos….
Berndt pleaded not guilty.
His arrest was followed by another Miramonte Elementary teacher and the dismissal of the entire school staff. Martin Bernard Springer is charged with three felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14. http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/11/12684038-14-moms-sue-la-schools-in-child-abuse-case
February 16, 2012 Comments Off on Teacher Abuse, Secrecy in Child Sexual Abuse Allegations Orthodox Jewish Cases
Teacher Abuse Cases – Miramonte Elementary School, Tender Care Learning Center
Recently, several school teachers have been either charged or convicted of sexual crimes committed against children. Here are two cases, one from Los Angeles and one from Pittsburgh.
Public Secrecy About Child Sexual Abuse – The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism
Attorney and author Michael Lesher will make oral arguments on February 14 before New York State’s Court of Appeals in his longstanding Freedom of Information (FOIL) lawsuit against Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. If Lesher prevails, the district attorney may be forced to provide some much needed transparency regarding cases of child sexual abuse in fervently Orthodox (sometimes referred to in media reports as the “Haredi” or “ultra-Orthodox”) communities….
Hella Winston’s Reporting
Winston has reported for several years—primarily in the New York Jewish Week, the nation’s largest Jewish weekly—about allegations of secrecy and cover-ups involving child sexual abuse in fervently Orthodox Jewish communities. Despite many roadblocks, including community members’ fears of speaking out and a lack of transparency from both the communal leadership and law enforcement authorities (similar to the resistance Lesher has experienced), Winston, perhaps more than any other journalist, has reported relentlessly and extensively about this issue….
Michael Lesher’s Freedom of Information Lawsuit
Lesher is suing to compel the Brooklyn district attorney to release, under FOIL, documents related to efforts to extradite alleged serial child molester, Avrohom Mondrowitz. Mondrowitz, a member of the fervently Orthodox community, fled from New York to Israel in 1984—likely mere hours before a warrant for his arrest could be executed, law enforcement sources told Winston. Mondrowitz was indicted in absentia by a Brooklyn grand jury in 1985 on 14 counts, including five counts of sodomy in the first degree. After two failed attempts to extradite him, Mondrowitz remains in Israel to this day.
February 12, 2012 Comments Off on Abusers Target Impoverished Schools – Miramonte Elementary School
Abusers Target Impoverished Schools Feb 10, 2012
LOS ANGELES – The charges are shocking, but the choice of victims comes as little surprise.
The horrors alleged at Miramonte Elementary School echo previous cases of sexual abuse: vulnerable children, plied with attention and gifts and groomed to trust adult predators.
The abuses claimed here may be different – children blindfolded, gagged and fed a substance investigators say was semen. But the setting follows a pattern alleged at Penn State University, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of using a charity he founded to target vulnerable boys from single-parent homes or troubled families, people unlikely to speak out.
At Miramonte, the victims could hardly have been more disadvantaged: The 1,400 students are virtually all from poor Latino homes….
A former teacher’s aide, Ricardo Guevara, is serving a 15-year sentence in state prison after being convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing three kindergarten girls at Miramonte. The Los Angeles school system was ordered to pay $1.6 million to his three victims’ families.
Beverly Hills lawyer Keith Davidson….now represents four children, three boys and one girl, ages 9 to 13, who were students of accused teacher Mark Berndt, the man at the center of the scandal.
Berndt, 61, who was removed from his third-grade class a year ago, was charged last month with 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children ages 6 to 10 from 2005 through 2010.
Investigators say they have found 600 photographs Berndt took of the children, many performing what he told them was a game….
While investigating claims against Berndt, the Los Angeles sheriff’s department brought charges against another Miramonte teacher. Martin Springer, 49, pleaded not guilty this week to charges he fondled a second-grade girl.
Springer taught at Miramonte for 26 years. Berndt taught there 32 years, a span that saw the neighborhood transform from a heavily African-American population to almost uniformly Latino.
Berndt had been the subject of complaints before. The sheriff’s department investigated a September 1993 incident at the school, but prosecutors decided they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for District Attorney Steve Cooley….
In a separate incident, school system officials said they fired a female teacher’s aide at the school in 2009, after a mother reported finding love letters the aide wrote to her 11-year-old son….
Ellen Greenwald, a University of Texas-Dallas psychologist, says kids who are victims of sex abuse often fear that going to adults will get them in more trouble and that no one will believe them, or that adults will blame them.
“That’s what really creates the silence that continues,” she says.
Lisa Aronson Fontes, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts who wrote Child Abuse and Culture: Working with Diverse Families, says, “There’s a culture of silence at most schools … and a culture of disbelief and denial.”
Miramonte teacher paid to drop charges, Gacy had accomplices – lawyers say, West Memphis 3 judge speaks, Healing from Trauma
February 11, 2012 Comments Off on Miramonte teacher paid to drop charges, Gacy had accomplices – lawyers say, West Memphis 3 judge speaks, Healing from Trauma
– Miramonte teacher was paid $40,000 to drop dismissal challenge
– Serial killer John Wayne Gacy had accomplices, lawyers say
– West Memphis 3 judge speaks after 18 years
– Wellspring of Compassion- Self-Care for Sensitive People Healing from Trauma
Miramonte teacher was paid $40,000 to drop dismissal challenge
LAUSD says it paid Mark Berndt to settle his challenge because it was blocked from investigating and defending its firing of the Miramonte Elementary teacher accused of sexually abusing students.
By Howard Blume, Angel Jennings and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
February 10, 2012
The Los Angeles Unified School District paid Mark Berndt, the teacher at the center of the Miramonte Elementary child abuse scandal, $40,000 to drop the challenge to his dismissal last year.
The payout consisted of four months of back salary plus reimbursement for the cost of health benefits. Berndt was fired by the Board of Education in February 2011 after officials learned that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was investigating him for alleged lewd acts against students. He was arrested last week.
The firing took Berndt off the district payroll. But he fought to keep his job through an appeal process that lasted until he settled with the school system and resigned in June.
The settlement with Berndt came in the face of a dilemma, said L.A. Unified general counsel David Holmquist. A hearing on the dismissal was pending and the district didn’t have evidence to justify the firing because the Sheriff’s Department investigation was ongoing….
Berndt was charged last week with 23 counts of lewd conduct against children; another teacher, Martin Springer, was charged this week with three counts of lewd conduct. Berndt is alleged to have taken photographs of blindfolded children being spoon-fed his semen. Springer is accused of fondling a girl in his class. The Berndt and Springer cases are believed to be unrelated. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-miramonte-20120210,0,91877.story
Serial killer John Wayne Gacy had accomplices, lawyers say
By James Eng, msnbc.com 2/10/12
Nearly two decades after Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy was executed for torturing, raping and murdering 33 men and boys in the 1970s, two lawyers say they’ve unearthed evidence that indicates he didn’t act alone in some of the slayings.
Criminal defense attorneys Robert Stephenson and Steven Becker, who are partners in a Chicago law practice, said they re-examined the circumstances surrounding the disappearances of some of the victims. Their conclusion: the so-called “Killer Clown” had at least three accomplices.
The Chicago Sun-Times and WGN-TV first reported on the lawyers’ claims on Thursday and Friday.
“There is significant evidence out there that suggests that not only did John Wayne Gacy not operate alone, he may not have been involved in some of the murders, and the fact that he was largely a copycat killer,” Stephenson told WGN….
The sheriff said investigators will follow up on the information and, if it proves solid, will try to locate the potential accomplices — two of whom are believed to be still alive. The case has had so many twists and loose ends – seven Gacy victims remain unidentified, for example – that Dart is keeping an open mind….
Gacy, a building contractor who performed as an amateur clown at fundraising events and children’s parties, was tried in Chicago in 1980 and convicted of 33 murders. He was executed in 1994
West Memphis 3 judge speaks after 18 years
Feb 10, 2012 By Janice Broach
MEMPHIS, TN – (WMC-TV) – For 18 years the West Memphis Three appealed their case and every time Judge David Burnett denied those appeals and he refused to speak about the case or the men. outside of the courtroom. “Frankly, everything I did was affirmed by the Arkansas Supreme Court,” Burnett said.
Wellspring of Compassion- Self-Care for Sensitive People Healing from Trauma by Sonia Connolly – Whether you are new to healing or an old hand, whether your trauma is long past or ongoing, this book offers validation, support, and tools for healing. With this guide, uncover your wellspring of compassion, understand your reactions to trauma, rebuild self-trust, and respond to your inner voices with kindness. Reconnect with your body and respect your internal NO and YES. Nourished by compassion, grow into a shape defined by your history and desires, like a tree becoming more intricately itself every year. Sundown Healing Arts ISBN: 9780983903802 2012
Sonia Connolly, LMT helps sensitive trauma survivors regain self-trust and peace through intuitive, compassionate bodywork in Portland, Oregon. Her writing about trauma is inspired by twelve years of client sessions and twenty years of self-observation while healing from abuse.
February 10, 2012 Comments Off on Second Miramonte Elementary Teacher Remains in Custody
Second Miramonte Elementary Teacher Remains in Custody
Investigators have found an additional 200 bondage-type photos of children allegedly taken by a teacher.
KTLA News February 9, 2012 LOS ANGELES
Miramonte Elementary School reopened on Thursday with completely new staff, in the wake of the arrests of two teachers last week on child sex abuse charges.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said the idea behind the “clean sweep” is to re-build confidence among the many families who have lost faith in the school in the wake of the sex scandal…..
Meantime, at least two dozen students at Miramonte Elementary have retained attorneys so far.
The children allege they were victimized by teacher Mark Berndt, who was arrested last week and charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct.
Investigators have uncovered an additional 200 bondage-type photos of children allegedly taken by Berndt, who worked at the school for more than 30 years.
The pictures were found inside a computer at the Redondo Beach CVS store where the original photos implicating Berndt were found, Sgt. Dan Scott told KTLA.
Scott says the photos show about 25 victims that haven’t been identified yet….
The new pictures bring the total number of photos to roughly 600.
Authorities said the Berndt case could involve more than 100 children over five years.
Berndt is being held on $23 million bail and is due in court for an arraignment on Feb. 21.
KTLA spoke to a 10-year-old girl who said she was sexually abused by Berndt.
The girl said Berndt — who was not her teacher — would contact her female teacher and ask for the her to be sent to his classroom to “get cookies during class.”
“Mr. Berndt, he called my teacher and (asked) if he could borrow some students,” the girl said in the interview.
The girl said Berndt would always pick the same group of students. He gave her cookies, she said, and told her female teacher the girl had “been helping a lot.”….
Scott told KTLA that investigators have interviewed the female teacher and that, “we are satisfied with her answers she’s provided us. She is definitely not a suspect. I can’t predict what will happen in the future.”….
The Berndt case in particular has raised questions about whether the school properly handled misconduct issues in the past.
Authorities have acknowledged that a 10-year-old girl claimed Berndt tried to fondle her in 1994.
Sheriff’s detectives investigated the allegation, but the district attorney’s office rejected the case, saying there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
Additionally, two women, who are now adults, said school officials investigated rumors about Berndt back in 1990.
One of the girls told the Los Angeles Times that a counselor told her and two other girls to stop inventing stories after a complaint that Berndt appeared to be masturbating behind his desk.
In another instance, a woman who discovered love-letters written by a Miramonte teacher’s aide to her 11-year-old son was not taken seriously….
And in 2005, Richard Guevara, a former teacher’s aide at Miramonte Early Education Center, was convicted of committing lewd acts with children.
He had been investigated for improper behavior as far back as 1995, but it was a case from 2003 that led to his conviction.
In that case, Guevara received a sentenced of 15 years to life in prison.