Son is pictured eating food tainted by teacher, father says
A sheriff's detective called a parent at Miramonte Elementary last spring and told him his now 11-year-old son appeared in photos taken by teacher Mark Berndt, who is charged with abusing 23 children at the school.
The photos showed his son eating cookies with a white substance on them, the father said the detective told him. The photos focused on the boy's mouth, he said.
There were only three photos of his son but he was shown many more, most of which were of young girls, the father said. The father's name is not being used to protect his child's identity.
The father learned Monday from a sheriff's detective that the white substance was believed to be semen. He said the detective told him that Berndt sold some of the pictures online.
Berndt, 61, was arrested Monday after a yearlong investigation and charged with committing lewd acts on 23 students between the ages of 7 and 10. Authorities said Berndt blindfolded the children, then spoon-fed them a white substance believed to be his semen. He is accused of tying them up and placing giant Madagascar cockroaches on their faces.
It wasn't until the parent contacted the school district that Sandoval came to his home to talk about the investigation, he said.
The parent was not only outraged at what had happened but at the school's reluctance to talk with him and other parents about the investigation.
"At the very least, they should have reached out to ask us for forgiveness," he said. "Or just contacted us to give us information."
The parent said he went to the school in unincorporated South L.A. on Tuesday to ask for counseling for his son, who becomes defensive when asked questions about the photos.
"He would just tell me that he was a good teacher," the parent said. "He didn't see it as anything bad."
-- Paloma Esquivel at Miramonte Elementary School
Photo: Los Angeles school police patrol outside Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times