The mothers of 14 children have filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the Los Angeles Unified School District seeking damages for “generalized shock and trauma” over allegations that the school district “has a practice and custom of maintaining a ‘Culture of Silence’ to hide teacher misconduct, and to ignore teacher misconduct,” the lawsuit said. The plaintiffs seek “compensatory economic and special damages for medical expenses,” including psychological therapy, court documents say.
The suit comes from a criminal case against former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt over allegations that he bound and photographed 23 students between the ages of 7 and 10, with semen-filled spoons held to their mouths, and cockroaches on their faces. The lawsuit says Berndt took pictures of the children “with cookies in the mouths of plaintiff’s children, and/or blindfolded the children, and/or placed cockroaches on the bodies of plaintiff’s children, for the intent of arousing and gratifying the lust, passions and sexual desires of Mark Berndt.”
Another civil lawsuit was filed in May on behalf of 22 children who say they were sexually abused by Berndt, alleging that he “engaged in sexual assault, sexual harassment, which include sex discrimination per LAUSD’a policies, and/or sexual exploitation of the plaintiffs that included lewd, obscene and/or lascivious acts” with the children who were all between the ages of 6 and 9.
CNN reports that authorities have found about 600 images thought to have been taken by Berndt in the classroom. The investigation was sparked after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department learned that hundreds of “questionable photographs of children on film that Mr. Berndt had brought (to) a local store to have developed,” the most recent lawsuit says.