I spoke to parents Maria and Jorge, with the help of an interpreter as they spoke Spanish too fast for me to keep up. "I'm very angry the evidence was destroyed" Maria said. They had a third grader, their eldest of five , at Miramonte Elementary when the scandal broke. Though she wasn't in disgraced teacher Mark Berndt's class, she apparently was frequently sent there during the day to ''help out'' and her parents claim she was one of the at least 23 victims of Berndt's lurid and lewd sex games, the graphic details of which we don't need to revisit here.
I spoke with them because of a double barreled news story with new revelations. First, we've learned the LAUSD decided to destroy some 20 years of copies of abuse allegations reports, claiming they didn't need to keep them, and they were possibly violations of privacy laws. That prompted an attorney for Maria and Jorge to call for a federal investigation of this ''coverup '' Brian Claypool accused the district of '' making it impossible for community to know when teachers committed child abuse, making it impossible to remove teachers who are alleged to commit child abuse. ' A district spokesperson, interestingly not a district employee but part of a political and strategic consulting firm hired by the District's outside counsel said the idea that we would cover up anything to do with student safety is absurd, in addiction, these were dual track reports so the idea that we are preventing reporting of child abuse is without merit . ''
This comes the same time as plaintiff's lawyers continued their effort to use a previously confidential 512 page sheriff's investigation of Miramonte, done before any charges were ever filed, which lists the possibility of some 100 additional victims, and their allegations that Berndt ''exposed his genitalia'' and had students '' touch his penis'', crimes for which he was not charged. A lot of this is laid out in another excellent job of reporting by the L.A. Times. Berndt's attorney, former Federal Prosecutor turned TV reporter turned defense attorney Manny Medrano said Berndt absolutely denies that there was abuse beyond what Berndt admitted to. "There was never any physical violation of a child'' Medrano told me. I'd like to hear Berndt say that himself, he's not available, serving a 25 year state prison sentence, which Maria and Jorge and about 70 other plaintiff's wait for their day in civil court as their lawsuit moves forward. It won't be pretty. As for their daughter, now 12 and in a new Junior High, Jorge says ''my daughter has changed a lot with what happened to her . She's very different with the family and very sad.''