- Nov. 15, 2013
-- Lawyers for more than two dozen current and former Miramonte Elementary School students who claim they were sexual abused by former LAUSD teacher Mark Berndt voiced their clients’ relief that Berndt may spend the rest of his life behind bars after pleading “no contest” to charges he committed lewd acts on more than 20 students at the South Los Angeles campus.
Berndt is accused of taking hundreds of photographs of children at Miramonte, some of whom were blindfolded or gagged or forced to have cockroaches and other live insects placed on their faces. Berndt is also said to have conducted and photographed so-called “tasting games” in which children were given cookies that were allegedly laced with Berndt’s semen.
Attorney Ronald Labriola, who heads the Sexual Abuse Practice at The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP in Irvine, California, said that “Berndt’s tacit admission of guilt, and his acceptance of a 25-year sentence, underscores the severity of his crimes, and brings one measure of closure to students and their families who continue to endure severe emotional distress.” Labriola’s firm is co-counsel on dozens of unresolved civil cases filed by Miramonte victims and their parents against the school district that are awaiting trial in Los Angeles Superior Court. The district settled a separate group of cases earlier this year for amounts Labriola contends are “patently insufficient and not reflective of the seriousness of the abuse or of LAUSD’s negligence in allowing the abuse to continue unabated for so many years.”