Miramonte lewd conduct lawsuits can proceed
An L.A. County Superior Court judge on Thursday lifted a stay on lawsuits arising from alleged lewd conduct at Miramonte Elementary School.
The order, by Judge Malcolm Mackey, allows attorneys representing students and parents to proceed formally with their lawsuits. Up until Thursday, some cases had been on hold during attempts to reach an early, negotiated resolution.
But talks have been fruitless, attorney Luis Carrillo argued in papers submitted to the court. He said the Los Angeles Unified School District has been slow to make offers and that they're unrealistically low.
In lifting the stay, Mackey also directed all parties to continue mediation.
Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt, 61, faces 23 counts of lewd conduct and is being held in lieu of $23-million bail. He has pleaded not guilty. He has been accused of spoon-feeding his semen to blindfolded children as part of what he allegedly called a tasting game. He’s also accused of putting cockroaches on children's faces and feeding them semen-tainted cookies at the school, which is located in Florence-Firestone.
So far, 126 students and 63 parents have filed claims for damages against L.A. Unified. There are also six lawsuits on behalf of 37 students and one involving 11 parents, according to attorneys and district officials.
“We’re still pursuing an early resolution,” said Sean Rossall, a spokesman for L.A. Unified. “We feel it’s in the best interests of the children and the families. We want to avoid going through a lengthy litigation process.”
-- Howard Blume