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Teacher in Molestation Case Investigated as Early as 1994 [Updated]

The Director of Communications claims that there is not sufficient evidence to convict Berndt yet.

[UPDATED Feb.02| 11:12 a.m. PST: Officials revealed Thursday new details in the case against a former South Los Angeles teacher arrested earlier this week on sexual abuse charges.]

Authorities revealed that the 61-year-old elementary school teacher Mark Berndt was previously investigated in 1994 for allegedly trying to fondle a 10-year-old girl. The incident occured in 1993, but was not reported to the victim's elementary school until January of 1994. The young girl claimed that Berndt reached toward her genitals during class and she pushed his hand away.

The school notified the Sheriff's Department, which investigated Berndt. He denied the accusation and sent the case to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which declined to file charges.

He remains in jail on $23 million bail on charges that he committed lewd acts on 23 children ages 6 to 10. He could face multiple life sentences if convicted.

Berndt was terminated last year after several photos surfaced of children doing sexual bondage acts in the classroom. According to the Sherrif's Department, the crimes were committed between 2005 and 2010.

"We obviously believe it just didn't start magically in 2005, so yes, it could go back as far as the 30 years he's been teaching here or longer," said Sgt. Dan Scott.

Mark Berndt, 61, of Torrance. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Sherriff's Dept.)
Mark Berndt, 61, of Torrance. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Sherriff's Dept.)

The children appear with blindfolds over their eyes and tape covering their mouths and some of the photos depict Berndt with his arms around the children or hands over their mouths.

Several young girls are shown holding a blue plastic spoon in their hands with a clear substance later identified as semen. The photographs were turned into law enforcement by a film processor, who, under California law, is required to report suspected child abuse.

Over 40 photographs were turned in to police, which launched an extensive investigation against the suspect. Detectives recovered physical evidence early on, including a blue spoon identical to the one featured in the photographs, along with an empty container that tested positive for semen. Later DNA testing indicated a positive match between Berndt's DNA and the DNA found on the recovered items.  

A search warrant on Berndt's home resulted in the discovery of over 100 similar photographs of children and a DVD film displaying adult sexual bondage activity, but the images in that video are not a crime. In addition, the film processor submitted more photographs, for a total of 390 photos.

More than 26 children can be seen in the photos, and while some have been identified, police are actively trying to identify at least ten more.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent, John Deasy, commented on the investigation, saying "the district takes each and every reported act of criminal and administrative misconduct seriously, and we will continue to aggressively pursue each case to determine the truth of the matter, and initiate the appropriate disciplinary measures."

He stated that the victims and their families have been provided with crisis counselors.

Some parents are angrily turning to the LAUSD for answers, demanding to know how Berndt's actions weren't discovered earlier.

"He was a pervert," one parent told ATVN. "And they didn't know? Who's the people checking them from the district?"

Another student's parent, Rene Thompson, commented, "I'm thinking they were trying to protect the teacher and the school instead of protecting the children [by not telling anyone]. I'm doing a transfer right now. Actually I found a better school down the way."

Deasy announced Wednesday that the LAUSD is now launching an investigation of its own.

Sandi Gibbons, Director of Communications from the LA District Attorney's Office, announced earlier today, "The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigated allegations against Mark Berndt involving a September 1993 incident. On Feb. 23, 1994, the evidence was presented to the District Attorney's Office. After careful evaluation, it was determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove a crime occurred. All District Attorneys in California follow uniform standards in filing criminal cases. A prosecutor cannot ethically file criminal charges if the evidence fails to meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Berndt will be back in court on February 21.


The instructor are not able to encounter implications regarding fees which are a lot more than four years of age, his causes tend to be mercenary. He is able to self-discipline these individuals following they are in the procedure and will certainly write off everyone in case these. He obviously wants to maintain rating. Certain instructors will certainly ultimately take advantage of this to be able to courtroom. However Deasy is going to be over. And also people would be the kinds who else spend problems to instructors and also to these types of parents and the kids.

The parent, Rene Thompson has the right idea. Boycott LAUSD because the distruct protected the pervert, not out of loyalty to teachers. On the contrary. The teachers were too afraid to report what surely some knew was inappropriate. This is because LAUSD has a single priority. Defend the district from liability at all costs. Now the people in charge have admitted to breaking the law and compromising the children's safety to accomplish just that, but they expect the public to see an all out attack on teachers --anyone with a blip in thier file will fall under fire. He's presented as an intervention to protect students but the fact the review only goes back a few years contradicts Deasy. A teacher cannot face consequences for charges that are more than 4 years old, his motives are mercenary. He can discipline these people after they've been through the process and he will dismiss every one if them. He clearly likes to keep score. Sure teachers will eventually take this to court. But Deasy will be long gone. And taxpayers will be the ones who pay out damages to these teachers and to these parents and their children.

Good job, great report..Congratulations to Gianna and Christianne..

The school could have done something long ago. This teacher went to work everyday with shorts on a no underpants. It is so sad that this happent, and school is suppose to be where the kids feel safe. Not in LAUSD, SO SAD

Absolutely. If the school then took action against him, then probably such more incident wouldn't happen. Such irresponsibility often causes insecurity among the children as well as guardian. So, every school authority should be more conscious about such 'Abnormal' persons.
Thomas Jeff,
DUI DWI attorney
136 South Main Street Suite 423, Kearns Bldg.Salt Lake City, UT
(801) 988-9617

An excellent book to help protect your children and to teach them "there is no private parts game" is called Those are MY Private Parts. Available on amazon.
Every school should be trained in recognizing, preventing and reacting responsibly to child sexual abuse through the Stewards of Children Training from Darkness to Light

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