Los Angeles elementary school closes for sex abuse investigation


LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles elementary school will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday as authorities investigate a sex abuse scandal involving two teachers.

Miramonte Elementary School teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer were both arrested for allegedly sexually abusing their students. Officials are trying to learn more about what the school's other teachers may have known about the incidents, according to the Los Angeles Times

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Mark Berndt, a veteran teacher at Miramonte, has been accused of feeding his students semen, blindfolding them and placing cockroaches on their hands and faces, and taking lewd photos. He was put on leave a year ago, and arrested on January 30 after a photo processor tipped off authorities, who found incriminating pictures of the incidents in Berndt's home. 

Martin Springer was arrested on Friday, and is accused of fondling two girls, including one who was also allegedly abused by Berndt before being transferred into Springer's class when her parents filed complaints in 2008, KPCC reported. Both girls were approximately 7 years old when the incidents occurred, the Times reported. 

Parents of Miramonte Elementary students celebrated the district's decision to close the school for two days this week, The Los Angeles Times reported

“The school should be closed, but not just for two days,” Miramonte parent Graciela Garcia told the Times. She said she believed that all the school’s teachers should be investigated.

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Berndt remains in jail on $23 million bail, and faces life in prison if he is found guilty, CBS News reported. Springer, 49, is being held on $2 million bail. 

Investigators said they have not found any connection between the two scandals, other than that Berndt and Springer knew each other and took their classes on at least two joint field trips in the past 10 years, CBS reported. 

Many parents say they are angry over how school officials have dealt with the abuse cases, KPCC reported. 

“You trust the people that take care of your kids when they are in school. It’s unbelievable,” Beatrice Diaz, a parent of a second-grader who was in Springer's class, told the Times. “My son is saying, 'My teacher is on TV.' How do you explain that to your kid?”

John Deasy, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, will hold a meeting with concerned parents at 6 p.m. Monday night at a high school near Miramonte, CBS reported. The scandal has brought national attention to the country's second-largest school district, which is reeling from the sexual abuse allegations. 

The closing comes as the Los Angeles Police Department launches another sexual abuse investigation at Hamilton High School, KPCC reported. The LAPD is looking into allegations that a music magnet teacher, 59-year-old Vance Miller, showered naked with students at a local gym, LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said Monday.

The department is looking into Smith after a former student reported that Miller showered with him and two other students when he was a 17-year-old junior, according to KPCC. 

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