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Post-Miramonte, attorney calls for more aggressive measures

October 1, 2012 |  3:38 pm

An attorney representing two dozen students urged school officials Monday to take more aggressive action in response to alleged lewd conduct at Miramonte Elementary School.

The Los Angeles Unified School District should agree to an independent monitor over safety issues, said Luis A. Carrillo in a news conference at his South Pasadena office. The monitor’s tasks would include setting up a safety hotline available for every school that allowed for anonymous reports. Other duties would include submitting quarterly reports. The monitor also would be responsible for directing staff training on child safety issues, outreach to parents and a review of best practices elsewhere.

L.A. Unified reacted by listing measures it has taken since the January arrest of former instructor Mark Berndt on 23 counts of lewd conduct. Berndt has pleaded not guilty.

The school system has provided ongoing counseling to anyone affected at Miramonte or in the surrounding Florence-Firestone community, cooperated with investigators, pursued an internal review, opened its records to a state audit, reviewed 40 years of employee files and established an investigative commission.

The district also has begun alerting parents when an employee is removed from a school as a result of alleged lewd conduct. Carrillo asserted, however, that not all such notifications have been made as promised.

District employees take part in child abuse-awareness training annually.

The school system has set up or been forced to allow various forms of oversight over the years. Currently, an independent monitor reviews the education of children with disabilities. School bond spending is scrutinized by an appointed committee.

In his materials, Carrillo also objected to a small print of Pablo Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror,” which Berndt had posted on a classroom bulletin board. Carrillo called the 1903 cubist work inappropriate for elementary school.

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-- Howard Blume

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