Second teacher arrested at L.A. school where Mark Berndt worked
The teacher was removed from Miramonte Elementary School in South L.A. on Thursday after district officials learned of abuse allegations and informed the L.A. County sheriff’s special victims unit.
Sheriff's officials said the sex crimes unit immediately began an investigation into the male teacher after being informed of the allegations. No further details were released by the Sheriff's Department
The new arrest is unrelated to Berndt, a veteran teacher at the school who was arrested and charged with acts of lewd conduct involving 23 students earlier this week. But news of Berndt’s charges spurred an alleged victim to report to authorities an allegation against the second Miramonte teacher.
District officials say the moment they learned of the accusation against the second educator, they removed him from the campus and prevented contacts with students.
“A new allegation came to our attention [Thursday], and we referred the allegation to the sheriff,” said Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy. “We removed the teacher from the classroom and the matter is being investigated, like when any matter comes to our attention.
“There is no determination from the authorities, and the person could be completely innocent.”
He said Friday morning that the teacher was “housed,” meaning reassigned to a site where there are no students, typically a district office.
In the Berndt case, investigators said they have photographs of current and former students blindfolded and being spoon-fed a substance believed to be Berndt's semen.
Officials revealed Thursday that Berndt had been the target of a police investigation 18 years ago when a female student reported that he had tried to fondle her, authorities said.
The alleged incident occurred in September 1993, though officials said the girl did not tell her mother about it until four months later, after seeing an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that explained the difference between "good touches" and "bad touches."
The mother informed school administrators, who notified the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. The department turned over the case to the district attorney in February 1994, but prosecutors dropped the matter after determining "that the evidence was insufficient to prove a crime occurred," they said in a written statement Thursday.
-- Richard Winton and Howard Blume
Photo: Heidi Abalos, left, who stands beside a woman who declined to be identified, says she wants to pull her 6-year-old daughter from Miramonte Elementary School amid allegations of teacher abuse. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times