LAUSD finds no records of complaints against teacher Mark Berndt
Despite emerging reports of past suspicion of misconduct, Los Angeles school district officials have found no record of complaints against former teacher Mark Berndt, who is accused of bizarre acts of lewd conduct against students in his classroom.
The lack of documentation is not unusual because of when the incidents occurred, the law on reporting potential molestation and standard employee safeguards against potentially false accusations, said David Holmquist, general counsel for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
At the same time, “We’re looking everywhere we can think of,” Holmquist said. “We haven’t found any internal documents. We have not seen any documents.”
Los Angeles Unified School District officials learned Wednesday of suspected past misconduct from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and L.A. Times interviews with two former students from Miramonte Elementary, where Berndt, 61, worked for more than 30 years.
One former student said she was among those interviewed after Berndt was accused by one or more students of masturbating behind his desk during the 1990-91 school year. A school counselor eventually “just told us it’s not very good to make stories up,” said Marlene Trujillo. “She said it was our imagination. It was never talked about again.”
L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy has launched an internal investigation to try to determine how Berndt's conduct could have escaped attention for several years, if not decades. Berndt is accused of gagging students with tape, blindfolding them and spoon-feeding his semen to them as part of a "tasting game."
“How do I make sense out of the fact that this took place over a number of years and no one seemed to know about that?” Deasy said.
-- Howard Blume