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Former Miramonte students' lawsuit accuses LAUSD of negligence

May 5, 2012 |  1:51 pm

The Los Angeles Unified School District was named in a negligence lawsuit filed this week on behalf of 20 former Miramonte Elementary School students who say they were victims of sexual abuse by a former teacher at the school.

The lawsuit, which names several school board members as well as the current and former principal at Miramonte, claims that the district did not do enough to protect students who lodged complaints about inappropriate conduct at the school.

Mark Berndt, who was charged with 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children in January, was not named in the lawsuit. He has pleaded not guilty. He was fired from the school, located south of downtown Los Angeles, a year earlier.

The charges brought intense scrutiny of the district, which launched an internal investigation to determine how Berndt, a veteran third-grade teacher, could evade suspicion for so long.

The lawsuit said that the district essentially ignored student allegations. It names several complaints filed against the teacher, including one in 1993 in which a student claimed to have been fondled by Berndt. The lawsuit states that no changes were made to the district's “policies, training or supervision, or other actions to protect students," after the complaints.

In February, the district said it did not have any records of complaints against Berndt, who is accused of gagging students with tape, blindfolding them and spoon-feeding his semen to them as part of a “tasting game.”

A call seeking comment from the district was not returned.

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-- Nicole Santa Cruz

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