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Conspiracy of Silence in LAUSD

Los Angeles Unified School District
Image via Wikipe

The entire Los Angeles Unified School District is under a critical public eye. 

 

Following allegations of abuse, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles was arrested.  The outrage was only compounded when a second teacher at the same school was also arrested on charges of sexually abusing children.  Then came news reports that two aides at the school had been fired after being accused of abuse, and that one had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. 

 

Around the same time, allegations surfaced at other schools in LAUSD: a high school music teacher was removed after being accused of showering with students; a third-grade teacher was being investigated for more than a dozen accusations of sexual abuse; an elementary school janitor was arrested and accused of lewd acts against a child.  Most recently, a high school softball coach and special education teacher was arrested on charges of sending inappropriate messages to children over the Internet. 
While there is no evidence to suggest that these abuse accusations are connected, such occurrences have raised fundamental questions regarding the way the district monitors its employees and responds to reports of abuse.

Most of the attention has been on Miramonte Elementary School, where two teachers have been arrested and it is likely that dozens of students were abused over several years.  Many of the students are children of Latino immigrants, and some worry that parents were reluctant to report the allegations to the police because of their legal status.

 

Mark Berndt, 61, who has taught at the school for 32 years, has been charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children aged between six and 10.  Martin Springer, 49, has been charged with three felony counts of lewd acts upon a child. 

 

After their arrests, many parents at the school said that they were worried for the safety of their children and that administrators had failed to fulfill their basic responsibility.  

 

District superintendent John Deasy, responded by replacing the entire Miramonte staff and shutting the school for two days. It has been noted that the rapid removal of a school’s entire staff is unprecedented nationally.  The old staff will remain at an unopened school until investigations by the sheriff and school district are completed.

 

There are allegations that the school fostered an environment conducive to child sex abuse, with its lax supervision policies and negligent response to reports of alleged child molestations, pedophiles were able to abuse children for years without facing any or little consequences.  The school had received reports of sexual abuse for several years but failed to take such reports seriously and failed to investigate to any of the allegations.  In fact, some of the reports never reached law enforcement, a violation of the California penal code   some individuals are required by state law to report suspicion of child abuse.   A firm response to earlier reports or more active supervisory practices could have prevented the sexual abuse and predators like Berndt and Springer may have been taken out of the school system much earlier.

 

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