LA Sex Crime Teacher Paid to Drop Appeal Over Firing

The third-grade teacher who has was found to have committed lewd acts on children was paid $40,000 to drop an appeal against his firing.

The Los Angeles Unified School District paid former third-grade teacher Mark Berndt $40,000 because it couldn't defend his February 2011 firing, district general counsel David Holmquist said, writes the Associated Press.

Berndt was removed from the classroom in January after it was revealed that the former teacher tied up and gagged 23 children, put cockroaches in their mouths and posed in photos with them – all in his classroom.

Berndt, 61, has been at the Miramonte Elementary School, which serves poor, mainly Hispanic children, for more than 30 years. He was dismissed as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was investigating him – he appealed against it but resigned in June after the district agreed to pay him four months of back salary and reimburse his health benefit costs.

Holmquist explained:

"We were told we could not do any investigation" to avoid interfering with the criminal probe.

"We didn't have any evidence and we couldn't put on any witnesses. We didn't have anything to successfully defend a challenge."

The man behind the sex scandal that has torn a school apart once dressed up as Mickey Mouse and posed creepily with children under his care, writes Debbie Emery at the Radar.

"In a financial settlement reached in June of 2011, the Los Angeles Unified School District paid Mark Berndt $23,980.10 in back pay and $16,019.90 in legal fees."

Under the agreement, Berndt, 61, is entitled to his full pension and retirement health benefits.

Parents from the district said they were angry that they were never told about the allegations or the fact that a second Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, was later charged with committing three lewd acts on one girl in class in 2009.

Parent Sylvia Hernandez said:

"We were never informed of this. It's a big shock.

"We would like to be informed. We'd like to know what's going on with our children in school. … That's the least we can expect."

What makes the case even more bizarre is the revelation that a female teacher's aide allegedly wrote love letters to an 11-year-old boy, writes Debbie Emery at the Radar.

Areceli Luisjuan reportedly penned the indecent messages to the fourth-grader back in 2009, much to the disgust of the boy's mother, who said that the school didn't take it seriously.

The notes said:

"When I was writing this letter, I was crying. My heart was breaking into pieces.

"Oh! I didn't tell you that I like when you put your arm around my shoulder, and if I told you not to do that it's because I don't want to put you in trouble, but I like it…"

She added in one note:

 "Read the letter and throw it away. I don't want your mom or brother to find it."

In an attempt to firmly draw a line under the horrific revelations, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy dismissed the entire 120-member faculty. The school was then shut for two days as part of the unprecedented move by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"Superintendent John Deasy said the makeover was needed to clear the school from a cloud of distrust and suspicion stemming from Berndt's arrest."

However, when the school reopened only 68 percent of the 948 expected students arrived.

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