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L.A. teacher's neighbors shocked over arrest for alleged lewd acts

February 4, 2012 |  8:14 am

Photo(1)Neighbors of a second teacher accused of abusing children at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles expressed shock at the allegations.

The arrest of Martin Bernard Springer, 49, came three days after L.A. prosecutors accused former teacher Mark Berndt of bizarre acts in his classroom that have generated national attention.

The allegations against Springer, a second-grade teacher, come from two students he allegedly touched improperly within the last three years.

FULL COVERAGE: Mark Berndt

Neighbor Gabriel Urrutia, 40, said he grew up with Springer in a quiet Alhambra neighborhood. The home he now lives in belonged to his mother, and Springer moved back in after she died, she said. He lived alone and mostly kept to himself, she said.

"I've never seen him with children ... he is always by himself, " Urrutia said. "I can't believe he was arrested."

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.

The allegations against Springer, a second-grade teacher, come from two students he allegedly touched improperly within the last three years.

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

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. Springer is being held in lieu of $2-million bail.

The Los Angeles Unified School District pulled Berndt from class in January 2011, after officials saw some of the photos. The Board of Education 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.

RELATED:

L.A. teacher suspected of lewd conduct keeps benefits

Evidence was insufficient to charge teacher in '94, D.A. says

Second teacher arrested at L.A. school where Mark Berndt worked

-- Richard Winton and Howard Blume

Photo: Martin Springer. Credit: L.A. Sheriff's Department

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