School sex-abuse scandal: Teachers say LAUSD 'failed to do its job'
The union representing teachers at scandal-rocked Miramonte Elementary School blasted Los Angeles Unified School District officials Thursday morning, accusing them of a "cheap media stunt" to deflect from their own failures.
United Teachers Los Angeles officials said they believe that the district has no intention of ever allowing Miramonte's 85 teachers to return to the school, where two teachers, Mark Berndt and Martin Bernard Springer, have been arrested and charged with lewd conduct. In an unprecedented move, Supt. John Deasy closed the school for two days and said he would bring in an all-new slate of teachers and staff.
"It is crystal clear that LAUSD doesn't have a plan," said UTLA President Warren Fletcher. "They're making this up as they go along, and students at the school are paying the price."
Fletcher said he had been informed that teachers would not be returning to Miramonte, despite initial statements from the school district that the change would be temporary.
Former Miramonte staff members are continuing to be paid and are scheduled to report to Augustus Hawkins High School, which has not yet opened.
Families echoed Fletcher's frustration outside the school Thursday morning, as a crowd of more than 100 gathered as classes resumed.
Many clutched signs with messages such as "Don't condemn all for the acts of a few" and "Our teachers are innocent!" A girl held a large poster with images of Berndt and Springer that said "LAUSD please protect us from these animals."
"Its unfair; the only two who should be punished are Berndt and Springer," said Alejandro Ramirez, a sixth-grade student at Miramonte. "My teacher did so much for me. He's the reason I started music."
Ramirez was playing a blue guitar and singing with a group of his friends on the front lawn of the school.
"We want our teachers back!" they chanted.
Fletcher said UTLA would fight the decision to remove Miramonte's teachers. The district had no immediate response to the allegation that the teachers would not be returned to the school.
"The district is making a tragic situation worse," Fletcher said. "The teachers, parents and students of this community have been betrayed."
He accused the district of allowing the cases to be tried in the media.
"We resent it when the district does so, and we resent it when this community and these parents have their children's education deeply disrupted for no other purpose than to deflect criticism from an administration that failed to do its job," Fletcher said.
At least two dozen students have retained attorneys so far. The children allege they were victimized by Berndt, who was charged last week with 23 counts of lewd conduct. Prosecutors allege that Berndt spoon-fed his semen to blindfolded students as part of what he called a "tasting game."
After Berndt's arrest, two families reported that Springer, a 49-year-old second-grade teacher, had fondled their children in separate incidents within the last three years. He was removed from his classroom last Thursday and arrested the next day. One child has since recanted her story, authorities said.
-- Angel Jennings and Sam Allen at Miramonte Elementary School
Photo: UTLA President Warren Fletcher holds a news conference Thursday morning in front of Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times