Miramonte Sex Abuse Scandal: Staff Removal May Not Be Temporary
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said the decision to remove the teachers is aimed at rebuilding trust among the students and parents who have lost confidence in the wake of the sex abuse scandal.
Some critics say the decision ignores the real problem and causes unnecessary disruptions.
"LAUSD is making a tragic situation worse, and traumatizing every child in this school," said United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) president Warren Fletcher at a press conference Thursday. Fletcher said that the removal of 85 teachers without investigation was "nothing more than a cheap media stunt, intended to deflect attention from the fact that the tragedy that is occurring at this school is a result of a failure of supervision."
UTLA said that they will "vigorously represent" the rights of the teachers to have a fair hearing.
Many parents and students, who protested at the school on Thursday, argued that removing the entire staff was the wrong decision.
Two teachers have been arrested and charged with committing lewd acts on at least 24 children. Former teacher Mark Berndt, 61, was charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children, ages six to 10, between 2005 to 2010. He was arrested Jan. 30. Prosecutors say Berndt took photos of students who were blindfolded, had tape over the mouths and spoons of his semen against their lips. Berndt, who taught for 30 years, was removed from the school last year after the first allegations arose. He is being held in lieu of $23 million and scheduled for arraignment on Feb. 21.
Another teacher, Martin Springer, 49, was arrested last Friday on three counts of committing a lewd act on a child under 14. Springer’s bail was set at $300,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 16.
Diane Cranley attended Thursday’s protest to provide support for the parents and children. She is the founder, president and CEO of TAALK, a non-profit that works to break the silence surrounding child sexual abuse.
Even though it was a tough decision, Cranley supports the LAUSD’s choice to remove the teachers.
"When you have four teachers that have been implicated in a number of years, three currently, and one previously, I think you have to wonder whether there's some broader corruption going on,” said Cranley. “I think it was prudent in protecting the kids."