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Second Miramonte teacher to be charged with lewd acts on a child

February 7, 2012 |  1:55 pm

Mark Berndt and Martin Springer

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced Tuesday that Miramonte Elementary School teacher Martin Bernard Springer will face charges after his arrest last week for allegedly fondling two girls at the school.

Springer, 49, will be charged with three felony counts of committing lewd acts upon a child. Springer was taken into custody last Friday, three days after L.A. prosecutors accused former teacher Mark Berndt of bizarre acts that have generated national outrage.

The charges against Springer, a second-grade teacher from Alhambra, come from two students he allegedly touched improperly within the last three years, though the charges announced Tuesday relate only to one of his alleged victims. Springer faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison, district attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.

PHOTOS: Sex abuse charges spark parent uproar

The girls "were allegedly fondled in the classroom at Miramonte school by suspect Springer," said Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "They were approximately 7 years old at the time of the incidents .... The investigation is continuing."

Berndt, 61, allegedly spoon-fed his semen to blindfolded children as part of what he called a "tasting game." Police have collected hundreds of disturbing photos; in some, children are shown with a milky substance around their mouths.

Springer, like Berndt, has worked his entire teaching career at Miramonte. Berndt, a Torrance resident, began working as a teacher there in 1979, Springer in 1986.

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On Monday, the Los Angeles Unified School District transferred the entire staff of Miramonte and closed the elementary school for two days to bring in replacement educators after parents kept students home following the arrests.

Miramonte, in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood, is one of the nation's largest elementary schools, with about 1,500 students. Its teachers work varying schedules at the year-round campus, but Berndt and Springer knew each other. School newsletters show that they took their classes on field trips together over the last decade: one to Malibu, for example, and another to Griffith Park.

Berndt is being held in lieu of $23 million bail. Prosecutors recommended Springer's bail be set at $300,000.

The LAUSD pulled Berndt from class in January 2011, after officials saw some of the photos. The school board fired him about a month later, but Berndt retired before his dismissal could be affirmed. It was another year before deputies arrested him.

Springer was ordered out of his classroom Thursday morning. He reported for work Friday to an L.A. Unified office where there are no students, which is district policy for teachers who are suspected of wrongdoing.

Authorities are looking for other potential victims in both cases as well as past episodes of possible misconduct. Supt. John Deasy has said he wants to fire Springer.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Mark Berndt and Martin Springer. Credit: L.A. County Sheriff's Department