Attendance dropped at Miramonte Elementary School on Monday as details emerged of the allegations of decades of sexual abuse by Mark Berndt, and after Martin Springer’s arrest on lewd conduct charges. Outraged parents protested outside of the school, and at an emergency school board official meeting held late Monday night.
The investigation revealed that students made allegations against Mark Berndt, a former Miramonte teacher, as far back as 1990. Two former students, now adults, alleged that they saw Berndt masturbating under his desk during class. They were accused of making the story up. Another victim has alleged that she was abused by both Berndt and Springer. Her family has filed a suit against the district.
At the meeting, school board officials made an emergency decision to cancel class for today and tomorrow, as well as make the unprecedented decision to remove and replace all staff at Miramonte. In a letter to employees, Deasy stated that the decision to remove the staff was made because he saw no other way to defuse the situation. He wrote,
“Some might see this as an extreme measure, but this is an extreme circumstance. I need to take action within the scope of what I can control. This is it. This is going to be a lesson for all of us. Our children are our number one priority. We must ensure their safety.” Quoted in the LA Times, 7 Feb 2012.
The following changes will also occur at Miramonte Elementary:
- Students will be taught by two-person teams, with instructors and counselors providing support.
- Parents can transfer their children to another local school if they so choose.
- Counseling for students and families will be provided upon request.
- Entire staff will be removed from Miramonte, and a “comprehensive review” will be conducted.
- Every current and former student and staff member will be interviewed.
- An Independent Commission will review and provide recommendations for further action. The commission will be headed by retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Moreno.