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

Ex-Miramonte Teacher Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison

Mark Berndt pleaded no contest to charges that he committed lewd acts with children ranging in age from 7 to 10 years old.

Mark Berndt, 62, plead no contest on Friday to charges that he committed lewd acts with students. (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dept.)
Mark Berndt, 62, plead no contest on Friday to charges that he committed lewd acts with students. (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dept.)
A former Miramonte Elementary School teacher was sentenced to 25 years to prison Friday after feeding his students semen-tainted cookies.

Mark Henry Berndt, 62, was charged with 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children between the ages of 7 to 10 years old and pleaded no contest in court. 

As part of his plea agreement, the 30-year veteran educator is required to register as a sex-offender for life.

Since Berndt and his colleague, Martin Springer, were arrested in 2012, lawsuits filed by alleged victims totaled to almost $30 million in settlements so far. Several claims are still pending.

After sexual misconduct allegations surfaced in 2011, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy replaced the elementary school's entire staff and Berndt was removed from the classroom.

Following Berndt's no contest plea, Deasy said he is "relieved."

"As a community of educators, we remain tireless advocates for student safety," said Deasy. "We will continue to implement reforms and push for statewide changes to protect students, including calling for a strong teacher-dismissal bill that will enable us to remove teachers who violate the public's trust and hurt students."

The year-long investigation turned over 40 photographs of children blindfolded and their mouths covered with tape, according to L.A. County Sheriff's Department officials.

After searching Berndt's home, investigators said they found 100 similar photographs of children. 

Detectives also found a blue plastic spoon with a clear, white substance on it, which tested positive for semen, according to the sheriff's department. The DNA test linked the semen to Berndt.

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