Schools settle claims over 'semen games'

2013-03-13 12:08
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Los Angeles — The Los Angeles school district will pay millions of dollars to settle claims and lawsuits filed by students and families from an elementary school where a third-grade teacher was accused of spoon-feeding children semen in what he called "tasting games", lawyers in the cases said on Tuesday.

District officials did not reveal the total amount of the settlement, but attorney Raymond Boucher, who represents several Miramonte Elementary School students, said each claimant will receive $470 000.

District General Counsel David Holmquist said the settlement covers 58 of the 191 claims and lawsuits filed by students and parents against the district after the January 2012 arrest of former third-grade teacher Mark Berndt on 23 charges of lewd behaviour spanning five years at Miramonte.

A few of the cases involved another Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, who was charged with lewd acts on a child in a case involving a second-grader who authorities said was fondled in class in 2009.

The accusation surfaced after Berndt's arrest, Holmquist said.

The 58 people involved in the settlement are all students, he said.

Traces of semen

Prosecutors said in Berndt's "tasting games" he fed students his semen on cookies and by spoon, sometimes blindfolding and photographing them. Berndt, who taught for 32 years at the South Los Angeles school, has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case.

Springer has also pleaded not guilty.

The allegations against Berndt came to light when a drugstore photo technician noticed dozens of odd photos of blindfolded children and reported them to authorities. Investigators said they discovered a plastic spoon in Berndt's classroom trash bin that was found to contain traces of semen.

Boucher, who represents 13 of the 58 students in the settlement, said proving some of the claims would have been a problem at trial.

Some children did not have photographs of themselves eating the cookies laced with a milky white substance, or of being fed spoonfuls of it, he said.

In addition, there was no way to prove the substance in photos was semen, he added.

Settlement amount blasted

Parents also understood that with so many claims, a jury verdict could bankrupt the district, he added.

"We had to do a balancing act and we understood, if you go that second route and you wind up [with the district] in bankruptcy, these clients will never receive compensation for what they've been through," Boucher said.

Frank Perez, an attorney representing eight students, said parents chose to settle rather than put their children through the emotional upheaval of litigation and to put the case behind them.

Other attorneys blasted the settlement amount as paltry and said they would proceed with their cases.

"This is lifelong trauma," lawyer Brian Claypool said.

Attorney John Manly said the district has not yet explained how the alleged incidents went undetected for so long.

Wide-ranging overhaul

"The district got a great deal today," he said. "There's not been a single explanation of who knew what when."

The case led to a wide-ranging overhaul of how the second-largest US school district handles allegations of sexual abuse after it was revealed that previous complaints about Berndt's behaviour were ignored.

It also shined a light on how slowly state officials act to censure teachers and led to a flurry of allegations of teacher-student sex abuse in the district and in other school systems.

Shortly after Berndt's arrest, the school district temporarily removed all 76 of the school's teachers along with staff and administrators, putting them on leave and having them report to an empty high school nearby.

Six months later, when the new school year began, 43 of them returned to a restructured Miramonte with a new principal. The rest either retired or went to new schools.

- AP

Read more on:    us
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
17 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 19:35 PM
    Road name: M7 Vanguard Drive
    ROADWORKS - traffic restrictions between the R300 and Highlands Drive - expect delays
  • Tuesday Belhar - 17:58 PM
    Road name: Belhar Drive
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Alabama Drive
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Ace

A sleek combination of technology and sophisticated design, the Samsung...

From R1695.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is always easier to look out and see what needs changing. Looking in is a lot harder... Today you may need to look at what...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.