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L.A. schools Supt. Deasy, 4 predecessors named in Miramonte lawsuit

January 29, 2013 |  3:34 pm
Photo: LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy answers questions from the media following a news conference to discuss school security following the elementary school massacre in Connecticut December 17, 2012. Credit: Katie Falkerberg / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy and four predecessors were named in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that alleges they intentionally did not report complaints of suspected teacher abuse.
The lawsuit alleges that the superintendents created an environment in which administrators were advised to dismiss complaints of misconduct, shielded teachers from scrutiny and kept allegations from being reported to state authorities and law enforcement.

The former superintendents named in the suit are Ramon Cortines, Ruben Zacarias, Roy Romer and David L. Brewer. The lawsuit also names the district and the school board, as well as two former principals at Miramonte.

Attorney Brian Claypool filed the lawsuit on behalf of the 12 children and 19 parents he represents in another lawsuit in connection with lewd-conduct charges against a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School.

Those claims accuse district officials of not doing enough to protect students from veteran instructor Mark Berndt, even after fielding complaints about inappropriate conduct at the school.

Berndt 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 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.

The latest lawsuit claims that the superintendents failed to have a clear and effective policy on reporting allegations of child abuse, intentionally failed to keep files on such complaints and intentionally did not report claims to state authorities or law enforcement.

The lawsuit cites a state audit released last November that found that Los Angeles school officials failed to promptly report nearly 150 cases of suspected misconduct to state authorities, including allegations of sexual contact with students.

Claypool said the top officials had a “calculated plan over 20 years to facilitate child abuse at the expense of the safety and welfare of the kids,” he said.

L.A. Unified's attorney stressed district efforts since Berndt's arrest.

“The school district is committed to providing a safe environment for students to learn and thrive," said general counsel David Holmquist. "Appropriately addressing misconduct continues to remain a top priority. That is why we have continually engaged in extensive internal and external reviews of our policies and practices.... We have and will continue to work to make our schools even safer.”

In a separate case, prosecutors last week charged a former teacher at George de la Torre Elementary School in Wilmington with molesting 12 students at the school. The teacher, Robert Pimentel, 57, has pleaded not guilty.

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 -- Stephen Ceasar

Photo: LAUSD Supt. John Deasy answers questions from the media following a news conference to discuss school security after the elementary school massacre in Connecticut on Dec. 17. Credit: Katie Falkerberg / Los Angeles Times

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