LAUSD Settles Miramonte Lawsuits
At the Schools with Audrey Linden
Mark Berndt is still in prison and he has pleaded not guilty. Yet, LAUSD’s attorneys and attorneys for the children and their parents have reached a settlement. Not all families involved have agreed to or accepted the settlement. Those who did agreed they did not want their children to have to re-live the experience or to have to go through the frightening ordeal of having to testify. That seems a wise choice. Whatever these children know, it will haunt them for the rest of their lives. And, if they were under a microscope, so to speak, they would find out even more about what had taken place. One would hope the victims don’t realize the full extent of what had been done. Certainly, if the children were to undergo a trial, all details would have to come out. And the children would have to testify and be cross examined. Thus, those who have decided to settle are doing it in the best interests of their children.
About half those who had claims will split thirty million dollars. Fifty-eight victims are settling. Each of the victims will get $ 470,000 as a lifetime settlement. David Ring, an attorney for seven of the students said he is acting in the best interests of the children so they don’t have to testify and can move on with their lives. These children may face a lifetime of therapy and counseling. Things may crop up as they get older. Most did not know what had happened as they had been blindfolded.
Berndt had blindfolded the children. Put cockroaches on their faces, and allegedly gave them cookies with his own semen as “icing”. They were not aware of exactly what had been done. Because he had photographed them blindfolded, the photos came to the attention of a South Bay photo technician who had developed and printed the photos. One would have to wonder if Berndt wanted to be caught. These are not photos one would take to their local drugstore to print. But, Berndt did, and thanks to the diligence of the technician, who paid attention, an investigation ensued. Unfortunately, the investigation took over a year.
Berndt had previous allegations made against him in 1993 when a female student had said he tried to fondle her. The charges were dropped and apparently were not made part of his record at LAUSD. The attorneys have said LAUSD did not protect the children.
Negotiations had started last September with LAUSD and seventeen law firms representing the victims. Cruz Reynoso, former State Supreme Court Justice and Peter Lichtman, former L. A. County Superior Court Judge presided over the mediation process. Fourteen of the law firms agreed to the settlement.
The other attorneys who did not accept the settlement feel the money is not sufficient. There were 191 claims filed with 129 students, and 62 parents and guardians. 71 cases have not agrees to the settlement. Their attorneys feel the horror that was inflicted on these children has caused damages that ultimately will exceed the amount of the settlement and as such to settle is not cost effective. LUASD remains open to settle with the rest of the lawyers who represent the victims.
Others who were victimized were the teachers and staff who were let go and housed at a nearby school for the duration of the school year. Since the investigation, stricter regulations regarding reporting of any suspect abuse cases have been put in place, and any suspected of abuse claims are housed in "teacher jail" until their cases are resolved. Some have been cleared by LAPD but are not considered innocent until LAUSD concludes their investigations which can be long and arduous Berndt's actions have victimized many besides the students.