School Climate & Safety

L.A. Elementary School Reopens With New Teachers, Staff

By Christina A. Samuels — February 09, 2012 1 min read
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Miramonte Elementary, which has been rocked in the past several days by allegations that two long-time teachers engaged in lewd acts with students, opened today with new teachers, front office staff and janitors.

Superintendent John Deasy elected to move the entire staff after one teacher, Mark Berndt, was charged with 23 counts of lewd acts against a child. He remains in jail on a bail of $23 million.

Three days after Berndt’s arrest, a second teacher, Martin Springer, was accused of fondling two students. One of Springer’s accusers has since recanted her story, the Los Angeles Times reports. Bail for Springer was set at $300,000.

In the meantime, the investigation at the 1,500-student school has turned up a 2009 case in which a teacher’s aide there was accused of writing love letters to a student who was an 11-year-old fourth-grader at the time.

The mother told the Times that her concerns were dismissed when she first brought the letters to the attention of school administrators. From the article:

One letter, meant as a short-term farewell note, included a passage that the mother found especially disturbing: "When I was writing this letter, I was crying. My heart was breaking into pieces," wrote the teacher's aide, who has been identified as Areceli Luisjuan. "Oh! I didn't tell you that I like when you put your arm around my shoulder, and if I told you not to do that it's because I don't want to put you in trouble, but I like it..." The episode has become the subject of a law enforcement inquiry and an internal review by the Los Angeles Unified School District. According to the mother, however, sheriff's deputies and the school system failed to take her seriously the first time she brought the matter to their attention.

From news reports, it seems that many parents were upset about the upheaval in staffing. One commenter on this blog has written that “Deasy decided to take control of the crisis... by smearing the reputation of the whole staff at Miramonte! He ordered them removed, because of the actions of two criminals. Deasy is the leader of the second largest district in the nation, and his brilliant solution was to punish the whole staff, by vanishing them to an unfinished school, until next year? Talk about deflecting and redirecting blame.”

The Times, however, says he is doing his best. Please share your thoughts on the situation here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.