Charges Filed Against Second Miramonte School Teacher
[UPDATED | 4:12 p.m. February 7: A second teacher at Miramonte Elementary school was charged with committing lewd acts on a child.]
Martin Springer, 49, is charged with committing the acts in April, May and June 2009. One of the acts involved a girl under the age of 14, who has not been named. The district voted unanimously to fire Springer, who has 30 days to appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, Miramonte Elementary School has been shut down Tuesday and Wednesday as the Los Angeles Unified School District replaces the entire staff.
The faculty, including administrators, teachers, secretaries, and custodians, are being relocated with no opposition from the L.A. teacher's union.
A letter to colleagues released yesterday by LAUSD Superintendent, Dr. John E. Deasy, highlighted the following specific actions he is taking due to the recent scandal:
- Provide a pre-screened group of teachers and counselors, pairing one instructor with one counselor per classroom
- Offer counseling services to past and present students, along with their families when requested
- Relocate current Miramonte staff
- Interview all former students and staff members
- Form an independent commission led by retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Moreno to review processes and provide recommendations for all LAUSD schools
"I am not going to wait for any other surprises at Miramonte. Some might see this as an extreme measure but this is an extreme circumstance. I need to take action within the scope of what I can control. This is it," said Deasy Monday.
"This is going to be a lesson for all of us. Our children are our number one priority. We must ensure their safety."
Parents are outraged and question LAUSD's ability to keep the students safe. Twenty-eight percent of the school's students stayed at home on Monday as the parents protested for greater communication between education officials and the placement of cameras in the building's hallways and classrooms.
"We've gotta have cameras in the hallways and in the school," said Morris Griffin, a Miramonte Elementary School parent, "Why? 'cause we believe that we need to see how our kids are being taught in school."
Arianna Perez, a parent of two Miramonte students, says the school simply is not safe and wants a new principal and new teachers. "I'm not letting them in. They're scared to be in. I'm not going to put them in risk of [teachers] doing something to them."
School District spokesman Tom Waldman says the school officials canceled classes on Tuesday and Wednesday so the community can cool off.
Last week's allegations against teachers Mark Berndt, 61, and Martin Springer, 49, left the parents confused and worried. Berndt has been charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children and remains jailed on $23 million bail. If convicted, he could face life in prison. Springer has been arrested on suspicion of fondling two girls and is being held on $2 million bail. Both teachers have been at Miramonte for more than two decades.
Catherine Benavides, another protester, says she's just there to get answers.
"We're all out here wanting to see and get answers from the principal or any superintendent that wants to come out here and discuss the issue with us."
Attorney Luis Carrillo announced that he has already filed a claim against the school district. He says, "I think we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg. I believe there's hundreds of cases of abuse. Not only at this school but throughout the district. The district failed to protect the kids under its care."
Los Angeles Board of Education President Monica Garcia released the following statement:
"We are appalled, extremely saddened and devastated to learn of the allegations and events involving teachers at Miramonte Elementary School... The safety of LAUSD's students is the priority of this Board and our District. We thank the parents who are working with us... [and] need parents to continue being involved. Our hearts and minds are with Miramonte school community and we will direct every available resource to assist those directly affected by these unspeakable acts."
The Board President then stated her support for Deasy and his effort to work with agencies such as the LA County Sheriff's Department and LAUSD's Crisis Counseling Intervention Services to "provide the necessary support to parents and students affected."
"This tragic incident reminds us that reporting suspected child abuse or any criminal act is everyone's moral, legal and ethical obligation and responsibility and highlights the need for all stakeholders-parents, students, school staff and community- to break the code of silence."
If you have any information about Miramonte, you can call the hotline at 866-247-5877 or e-mail .