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L.A. Unified bans blindfolding of students during lessons

The Los Angeles Unified School District has banned the blindfolding of students as part of the curriculum in a fourth-grade reading program because of the sex-abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School
The Los Angeles Unified School District has banned the blindfolding of students as part of the curriculum in a fourth-grade reading program because of the sex-abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School.

The blindfolding of students attracted notice after the January arrest of Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt, who has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct for allegedly photographing students blindfolded and being spoon-fed his semen.

In light of that case, blindfolding "may be perceived negatively," wrote Deputy Supt. of Instruction Jaime Aquino in a Feb. 23 memo to principals.

The fourth-grade reading program activity is part of the new California Treasures curriculum and is described in the teacher's edition. The purpose is to "review with students that sensory details are details that we observe by using our five senses."

Students work in pairs, with one blindfolded. Using an object, which isn't specified, the blindfolded student answers questions about the object from the other student.

"The goal is not to guess the object," the directions explain, but "to notice as much as they can with their fingers, nose and ears. Explain that the more detailed descriptions they provide, the easier it will be to identify the object."

There is no tasting involved.

Another activity at another school also has been banned: Making butter.

For 15 years, substitute teacher Prentiss Moore said, he has made butter with elementary-school students in a much-anticipated lesson.

"It is a standards-based lesson with elements of science, social studies, language arts and art," said Moore, 67. "I've done it over 500 times, always with the permission of the teacher, and being careful about allergies."

"The finished butter is served to the class on crackers," he said.

Berndt has been accused of serving students tainted cookies, which caused one parent at a North Hollywood campus to question Moore's buttered crackers.

Former school board member Genethia Hudley-Hayes said she perceives overreaction by administrators.

"What you really want is to protect students from predatory behavior," she said. "How does that get us any closer to protecting children?"

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Parents and children protest outside Miramonte Elementary School last month after the January arrest of teacher Mark Berndt. Credit: Krista Kennell / AFP/Getty Images

 
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