Abuse Triggers School ShakeUp

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 12:15pm

Entire staff of LA elementary school where two teachers allegedly abused students will be reassigned.

The entire staff of Los Angeles' Miramonte Elementary School will be replaced following the arrests of two teachers accused of lewd acts on students, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told parents during a meeting Monday evening.

The temporary restaffing is to take place during the two-day closure scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Paula Trejo, a community volunteer who attended Monday’s meeting, which was closed to journalists at the district's request.

Come Thursday, Deasy said, the school will be restaffed and then some.

Social workers will be placed in every classroom, and all staff and students from the past 30 years will be interviewed.

Teachers from Miramonte school will be moved to another school that is currently under construction and has no students.

The unprecedented move, which Deasy anticipates to last through August, comes after two Miramonte teachers were arrested.

Mark Berndt, 61, has been charged with lewd acts against 23 students.

He worked at the elementary for the past three decades, and had been investigated in 1994 for allegedly trying to fondle a 10-year-old girl.

A second Miramonte teacher, 49-year-old Martin Springer, was arrested on suspicion of lewd conduct with students.

The arrests, which happened within a week of each other, had parents fuming at their being kept in the dark.

Parents were not allowed to ask questions during the closed meeting, which lasted about an hour, according to attendees.

"I think it is very important that the actions that we are taking not be seen as a condemnation of an entire staff," Deasy said during a news conference after the meeting. "Quite the contrary, these actions that we are taking is trying to support staff and simultaneously determine if there are individuals who have done something wrong."

Deasy claimed many parents were relieved by the action taken by the school district, but other parents disagreed with the decision.

"My son has the perfect teacher to me, and I don't agree on them changing all the teachers just because of two persons," said parent Delia Chaidez.

Before Monday evening’s meeting, hundreds of parents and supporters from across Los Angeles demonstrated during a day-long protest.

"We the parents demand our children be protected from lewd teacher acts," read one of the banners at the protest.

News media were barred from the meeting.

If the news media is not allowed in the meeting, "you won't be represented," said grandparent Solomon Brunson, who encouraged parents to boycott the closed meeting.

The crowd, hundreds strong, chanted, "Let the media in!"

Attendees described the meeting as mostly as rehash of what media outlets have already reported, with about 20 minutes of new information.

United Teachers Los Angeles released a statement shortly after the meeting concluded.

The union neither supported nor condemned the restaffing decision.

"We support a thorough, vigorous and fair investigation of all allegations. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that any and all allegations are thoughtfully and carefully investigated," the union’s statement read.

The union said it was aware of Deasy’s decision "regarding the staff at Miramonte Elementary School," but noted they would not comment beyond the statement.
 

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