In L.A. School, Entire Staff Removed Due to Disgusting, "Lewd" Child Abuse

Update: One accuser has recanted her testimony (Weds). The story just gets stranger.

A school in LA has, temporarily at least, replaced its entire staff due to longstanding accusations of fairly heinous acts on the part of two faculty members--that eroded parents' trust so much a huge chunk of students just didn't go to school as the firestorm broke.

Two teachers at the Miramonte elementary school, one of the largest schools in Los Angeles, were accused of abuse and "lewd acts" towards students--amid allegations that one of these teachers was allowed to continue in his position for years after suspicions arose. While many of the staff will return, the move to replace them all was done to assuage frightened, distraught parents.

The story is bizzarre and sad, particularly since Miramonte is one of the district's poorer schools.

(Trigger warning).From the LA Times, the allegations go back decades:

One former student said in an interview with The Times that during the 1990-91 school year a counselor told her and two other girls to stop inventing stories after a complaint that Berndt appeared to be masturbating behind his desk. In 1994, detectives investigated a complaint that Berndt had tried to touch a girl's genitals, though prosecutors deemed the evidence too weak to file charges. And one father said that he complained in 2008 to the Miramonte principal after his daughter brought home photographs that Berndt had taken of her. In one image, she was eating a cookie coated with what investigators now suspect is Berndt's semen.

The unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood surrounding Miramonte is one of the poorest in Los Angeles County. Miramonte has struggled academically and is one of the last campuses in the school district to operate year-round because of overcrowding.

According to the school's website, 98% of the students are Latino and 2% are black. About 56% of Miramonte students are learning English, and virtually everyone receives free or reduced-price meals, a poverty indicator.

Stories like this are horrifying in terms of the way we treat the experience of minority children in our country--and also bad for all the hardworking and caring teachers who do sacrifice for their students and care for them.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at February 7, 2012, 5:17am

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