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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Lawyers of Miramonte Victims Propose Policies to Protect Students

Lawyers of victims of the Miramonte Elementary School scandal suggest new policies to better protect children. 

Lawyers for the victims called for safety measures to protect students from teacher misconduct, in such cases as Mark Berndt
Lawyers for the victims called for safety measures to protect students from teacher misconduct, in such cases as Mark Berndt
Lawyers for the 24 victims of alleged sexual abuse at Miramonte Elementary School presented new policy ideas to ensure student safety at a press conference Monday morning.

The attorneys wrote letters to both the Los Angeles Unified School District and state officials asking for the implementation of more effective measures to prevent sexual abuse in schools.

One suggestion the lawyers presented was for the school district to employ "Independent Monitors" who would oversee children's safety. These officials would be responsible for training teachers in LAUSD's "Safety Policies" and providing quarterly reports on complaints and actions made.

The attorneys also proposed the idea of a hotline for teachers, parents and students to anonymously report incidents of abuse or harassment to the District.

The new policy suggestions emanate from the charges that former teacher Mark Berndt molested 23 children at Miramonte Elementary School. Berndt, who taught at the school for 32 years, was arrested in January. He pleaded not guilty to the 23 charges of lewd behavior. Another Miramonte Elementary teacher, Martin Springer, was also charged for inappropriately touching two female students in 2009.

The attorneys for the 24 students filed a negligence and liability suit against LAUSD in July. The civil lawsuit alleges that school officials failed to take action after receiving complaints that Berndt had harassed students.

"We feel that they fell asleep at the wheel and didn't see the warning signs," said Michael Carrillo, one of the attorneys representing claimants against LAUSD.

"We want to see changes for these families. They're suffering, they're continuing to suffer, and we want to see that at the end of the road that some changes are made."

Following the arrests of the two teachers, LAUSD replaced the entire staff at Miramonte Elementary School. Every member of the 130-person staff, from the principal to teachers to janitors, was reassigned in July.

Miramonte students were also offered the choice of transferring to other elementary schools in their area.

"I'm intolerant when it comes to students being disrespected," said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.

The District plans to take the lawyers' policy suggestions, as well as the ideas of others, into consideration when moving forward.

"[We have] consistently sought expertise and recommendations on ways we can improve our practices throughout this process," said LAUSD representative David Holmquist.

"Our goal is to ensure that we are taking every opportunity to ensure the most healthy and safe learning and working environment possible for the entire LAUSD family."

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