Molestation complaints increase at school where teacher allegedly abused children, Los Angeles officials say
Los Angeles school officials said molestation complaints have increased since news broke of an elementary school teacher's arrest over allegations he molested 23 children.
The revelation comes as a second teacher was removed from the school where third-grade teacher Mark Berndt is accused of photographing children for sexual thrills.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy confirmed that another teacher was removed from Miramonte Elementary School on Thursday after someone alleged misconduct.
"We removed the teacher from the classroom and the matter is being investigated," Deasy told the Los Angeles Times. "There is no determination from the authorities, and the person could be completely innocent."
He said the teacher was "housed," or reassigned to a site where no students are present. Neither the name of the teacher nor the nature of the allegations were released.
The information was turned over to sheriff's investigators, but the teacher hasn't been arrested. Deasy says that unlike the Berndt case, there are no photos or other physical evidence.
The 61-year-old Berndt, a teacher with more than 30 years of experience at Miramonte, is accused of committing lewd acts against 23 students, ages 6 to 10. He could face life in prison if convicted.
The charges against Berndt are for the period between 2008 and 2010. The investigation began when more than 40 photographs depicting mainly girls in a school classroom with their eyes blindfolded and their mouths taped were turned in to law enforcement by a film processor, Fox affiliate KTTV-TV reported. Film processors are mandated to report suspected child abuse under California law.
"If it wasn't for the film processor, this could still be continuing today," sheriff's Lt. Carlos Marquez said.
About 400 photos were found at Berndt's home and at the photo lab during searches. It's not clear how many children were pictured. At least 10 have not yet been identified.
Some photos allegedly showed Berndt with his arm around children or his hand over their mouths. Other photos showed children with live bugs the size of hissing cockroaches on their mouths or faces.
Others depicted girls with what appears to be a spoon up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest a clear-white liquid. Children were fed Berndt's semen from a spoon or on cookies, investigators said.
Kids reported being fed something distasteful. A blue plastic spoon and container found in the trash in his classroom tested positive for his semen, authorities said.
The kids reportedly told police their teacher said it was a game and the substance was "sugar."
KTTV reported Friday that this case is not the first time Berndt was investigated for sexual misconduct. In January 1994, a complaint was filed against Berndt and investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deparment. The complaint was then rejected by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, according to the station.
Berndt's bail was raised from $2.3 million at the request of prosecutors, and his arraignment was delayed to Feb. 21.
Newscore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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