LAUSD superintendent 'outraged' over charges against teacher
Los Angeles Unified Supt. John Deasy said he is "outraged" over news that a teacher who taught for three decades at Miramonte Elementary School in unincorporated South L.A. may have been terrorizing students in his classroom.
Mark Berndt, 61, is charged with lewd acts on 23 children for allegedly tying them up, placing giant cockroaches on their faces and possibly feeding them his semen from a spoon, Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said. He was taken into custody Monday.
"We are as outraged as parents are because it is disgusting," Deasy told Fox 11. Deasy said he has seen some of the images and described them as "horrific."
"We trust our teachers to do what is right," he added when asked to explain how the acts could occur.
Deasy did not immediately return calls from The Times.
Berndt was fired in March and was being held Tuesday on $2.3-million bail.
Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said the alleged victims identified so far are 23 boys and girls aged 7 to 10 who had contact with Berndt between 2008 and 2010.
Investigators were tipped off by a photo processor. They recovered photos from Berndt's home that allegedly showed students bound and blindfolded. Some showed large Madagascar cockroaches crawling on the students inside the school setting, authorities said.
"Early in the investigation, special victims bureau detectives recovered a blue plastic spoon and an empty container from the trash within the suspect’s classroom," Parker said. "The recovered items tested positive for semen," he said.
Through further investigation, the suspect’s DNA was obtained and tested, and officials said it matched that of the DNA found on the spoon and container.
Parker said that, so far, 10 children in the photos recovered have not been identified. More than 80 children and staff have been in interviewed. Miramonte Elementary is in the Florence Firestone unincorporated area of Los Angeles County.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Mark Berndt. Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.