LOS ANGELES (CN) – Fourteen mothers of former students of Miramonte Elementary School sued Los Angeles Unified School District and two former Miramonte principals, claiming they “ignored sexual abuse of minor students” for 20 years, until the arrest of Mark Berndt, a 61-year-old teacher who was fired in January.
The Superior Court complaint accuses LAUSD of negligence and respondent superior liability. Other parents and 11 students filed two similar complaintsagainst the school district in May.
LAUSD and former Miramonte principals Mark Sandoval and Richard Lopez are named as defendants in the new complaint.
Berndt is not a party to the complaint. The former teacher has been charged with 23 counts of lewd acts on 23 children age 7 to 10. He is being held on $23 million bail.
The 14 mothers claim that the school district “had notice” of Berndt’s “child molestation, sexual abuse, lewd acts with students, and other misconduct” as early as 1990, after a Miramonte student complained of Berndt’s “inappropriate conduct.” Another student complained in 1993, but the school district did nothing, according to the lawsuit.
The parents say they became aware of Berndt’s abuses after he was arrested on Jan. 31 this year.
“After January 31, 2012, the plaintiffs, mothers of the children that were sexually abused by Mark Berndt, discovered that the defendant LAUSD had been totally negligent and permitted teachers to commit sexual abuses against multiple children. That is when it became public knowledge that teacher Mark Berndt betrayed his students and used his power as a teacher to sexually abuse multiple children,” the complaint states.
It adds: “After January 31, 2012, the plaintiffs, mothers of the children that were sexually abused by Mark Berndt, discovered that the LAUSD district administrators and staff knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known to protect children, that complaints had been made against Mark Berndt in the past 22 years.”
The complaint then lists specific complaint against Berndt.
During Berndt’s tenure, another teacher, Richard Guevara, was also abusing students, the complaint states. Though Guevara was convicted, that did not result in any policy changes or “other actions to protect students,” the parents say.
The parents are represented by Luis Carrillo of South Pasadena.