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Monday, February 27, 2023

Mark Berndt: The Elementary Teacher From Hell

     People without sexual perversions are normal in generally the same way. Sexual perverts, on the other hand, are deviant in disturbingly diverse ways. Adults who use innocent children to satisfy their perverse sexual compulsions are not mentally ill in the sense they are detached from reality. To other adults, even to people they work with every day, they can seem normal. Sexually perverse elementary teachers are hard to detect because they victimize kids who are under their control. Sometimes the children don't even know they are being victimized. Teachers like this can get away with sexually abusive behavior for decades. Most of them probably die before they are caught. Short of launching McCarthy-like witch hunts, how can these sexual predators be identified and stopped?

     Mark Berndt, a 61-year-old third grade teacher at the Miramonte Elementary School in Florence Firestone, an unincorporated community in Los Angeles County, began teaching at the school in 1979. Miramonte, situated in a hispanic neighborhood is in the Los Angeles Unified School District comprised of hundreds of campuses and 650,000 students. During his tenure at Miramonte, Berndt, according to his personnel file, had performed up to school standards without a single disciplinary action taken against him. Moreover, he had never been arrested for anything more serious than a traffic violation.

     In October 2010, a technician at a CVS drugstore in the South Bay area of Los Angeles came across a set of disturbing photographs of grade school boys and girls depicted in situations suggesting a bizarre form of sexual bondage. The film processor, as mandated by state law, notified the Redondo Beach Police Department. On December 2, 2010 the Redondo police turned the 40 photographs over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office.

     In some of the photographs Mark Berndt either had his arm around a third grade boy or girl or his hand covering their mouths. Some photographs showed children with live bugs crawling on their faces. Other kids were either blindfolded or had their mouths covered with clear tape. Some of the girls were depicted holding spoons up to their mouths containing a white liquid. Children were also pictured about to eat cookies topped with a substance later identified as the the teacher's semen. (In Berndt's classroom trash can police recovered a blue plastic spoon containing traces of his semen.)

     Detectives with the sheriff's office's Special Victims Unit started identifying the students in the photographs for interview. On January 3, 2011 a detective showed up at the Miramonte school to question Berndt. The teacher refused to speak to the investigator without first consulting with an attorney.

     A former fourth grade student of Berndt's, a woman who was now 30, told detectives that in 1990 she and two other girls spoke to a school counselor about their teacher's odd, inappropriate behavior. They had seen him, seated at his desk at the front of the room, playing with himself. The counselor accused the girls of making up the story. As a result nothing came of their complaint. (In 1993, police investigators looked into similar complaints against Berndt. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, on grounds the police had not gathered sufficient evidence against the teacher, decided not to pursue the case. Presumably, school officials knew of the investigation.)

     Shortly after Berndt refused to be interviewed by the police, school administrators removed him from the classroom. A month later, in February 201l, they fired him. (Actually, he wasn't fired. School officials induced him to retire by offering him $40,000 which he accepted. Firing a public school teacher is no small feat.) While the parents of the children depicted in the photographs were told of the investigation, the police kept the general public in the dark. (Placed under police surveillance, Berndt, between the time of his discharge and arrest, was not in contact with children.)

     On January 30, 2012, following a 13 month investigation, the Berndt case went public with his arrest at his home in Torrance, California. A search of his dwelling resulted in the discovery of 400 photographs similar to the ones seen by the CVS employee. (A normal person, knowing that he was under police investigation, would have destroyed these photographs. The fact that Brendt didn't revealed how  important these photos were to him. It was recommended that children depicted in the photographs be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.) Charged with 23 counts of lewd acts against minors, Mr. Brendt was hauled off to jail where he was held on $23 million bond. The criminal charges against him pertained to his contact with children ages 6 to 10 from 2008 to 2010.

     On February 3, 2012, police officers arrested a second Miramonte teacher on charges unrelated to the Berndt case. Martin B. Springer, 49, was charged with three counts of committing lewd acts in connection with the alleged fondling an 8-year-old girl in one of his classes. He was fired and held on $300,000 bail. From Alhambra, Mr. Springer had taught at the school since 1986. The judge who set bail decreed that if Springer made his bond he was to wear an ankle monitoring device and to stay 250 feet away from schools and parks. On February 7, 2012, one of the two girls who accused Springer of fondling recanted her story.

     A lawyer representing "Jane Doe 1," one of Berndt's victims who ate a sugar cookie laced with the teacher's semen, announced plans to sue the Los Angeles Unified School District. The plaintiff claimed that the school district did not take adequate steps to prevent Berndt from repeatedly abusing his students after numerous complaints had been filed against him. (Following Berndt's arrest, seven more students came forward with allegations of abuse.)

     On February 6, 2012, perhaps in response to allegations of an institutional cover-up, the 88 teachers and 40 staff employees at Miramonte were suspended with pay. They were replaced by a substitute crew of teachers and clerks.

     The Miramonte situation continued to worsen on February 7, 2012 when the mother of a former fourth grader told the Los Angeles Times that in 2009 a 50-year-old female teacher's aide wrote three love letters to her then 11-year-old son. One of the letters read, "...when you get close to me, even if you give me the chills, I like that. Don't tell nobody (sic) about this!"

     In November 2013, Mark Berndt pleaded no contest to 23 counts of lewd acts on children. The judge sentenced the 62-year-old former elementary teacher to 25 years in prison. According to Berndt's defense attorney his client was "remorseful and apologetic." The lawyer said that Berndt had entered a plea to spare his victims the ordeal of a trial. (Berndt had spared himself the ordeal of a trial and made the deal to get a lighter prison sentence.) 

     On November 21, 2014, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District announced that it had agreed to pay nearly $170 million in court settlements related to the Berndt pedophilia case. The settlement involved more than a hundred students.

5 comments:

  1. Have any psychologists or psycho therapists interviewed individuals like these, to help us understand WHY they did what they did, beyond shallow judgment?

    We need to understand their minds, so we can prevent creating more individuals with these attributes. If this was somehow environmentally influenced, I find it fundamentally a responsibility of those able to make those analyses.

    Career Psychologists, Therapists, and Neuroscience Scientists, this is a call out. What are you doing with your knowledge, to improve our world?

    Target these things, and find root cause.

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  2. I went back to get my teaching certificate and tried to get a teaching job. Granted I was in my 50s but I spent 10 years as a substitute and teaching assistant no full time assignment. When I hear of these perverts male and female in the classroom with our children it gauls me to no end. I went through all the hoops and hurdles and these people somehow made it in.
    It is a flawed system and vetting them out is hard because they know how to manipulate those around them.. if it isn't the propaganda infiltrated in the curriculum it's the weirdos that use our young people for their own gratification. Please be aware of this and be vigilant with your children when you hand them over to school everyday.

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  3. Those supposed pictures that everyone thinks were of some kind of sex party at Miramonte were actually photographs of a California fourth-grade sensory deprivation unit exercise. Kids would be blindfolded and would taste yogurt, have Creepy Crawlers put on them, that sort of thing, to show how your perceptions change without benefit of eyesight.

    That wasn't "semen" he was feeding to children, it was yogurt. And those weren't cockroaches, they were Creepy Crawlers. Every fourth-grade teacher in the 70s and 80s knew this because they all used to have them.

    That whole case was a travesty. No evidence of "semen" in the trash was ever found either, and the cops never said it was-- what they claimed they found merely "resembled" semen. Not only would that trash have been long gone after the photos were taken, but there was also no way that anyone could have traced binned trash back to a specific classroom.

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    Replies
    1. Not only are you knowingly wrong, but you're presenting your lies in a manner that qualifies as disinformation. You're just a pedo apologist. I hope you end up like your buddy. <3

      Delete