- Big milestone for Britain’s little Prince George who turns 1
- Murphy: Israel must be wary of Hamas using civilian deaths for recruitment
- Royce: Putin recruiting ‘every skinhead and malcontent around Russia’
- Nancy Pelosi is adamant: Congress worked together when Bush was president
- ‘Slender Man’ stabbing victim receives Purple Heart from anonymous veteran
- Kentucky city called socialist for buying gas station, undercutting competitor fuel prices
- Israel hits five mosques, sports complex in overnight Gaza strikes
- Hillary Clinton dogged for refusing reporters’ questions on book tour
- EPA tweet baffles: ‘I’m now a C-List celebrity in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ iPhone game
- Australian P.M. Abbott: MH17 evidence tampered with on ‘industrial scale’
Teacher pleads not guilty in abuse case
Lawyer says client in danger in jail
Question of the Day
LOS ANGELES — A former teacher whose arrest sparked a scandal at an elementary school that led to the replacement of all of its teachers pleaded not guilty Tuesday to committing lewd acts with 23 children in his classroom.
Mark Berndt, 61, remained jailed on $23 million bail. He was the first of two teachers arrested within a week on molestation charges involving students at Miramonte Elementary School
Martin Springer, 49, previously pleaded not guilty after he was charged with committing three lewd acts on one girl in 2009. He is free on $300,000 bail.
Former students have sued, alleging other molestation incidents.
Outside the courtroom where Mr. Berndt was arraigned, his attorney, Victor Acevedo, complained that deputies used a loudspeaker system at the jail to identify his client to other inmates as a child-molestation suspect.
He said the actions “put a bull’s-eye on his head,” placing his client in danger.
“Anyone accused of these charges, who is in the custody of the Sheriff’s Department, always runs the risk of their personal safety, for obvious reasons,” Mr. Acevedo said.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore told reporters that the claim is being investigated.
Mr. Berndt was a teacher for more than 30 years at Miramonte. He was arrested in January and charged with committing lewd acts on children as young as 6, in a case that attracted national attention.
Hundreds of photographs were found of children with blindfolds and tape over their mouths. Some photos depicted children being fed a white liquid which authorities allege was the teacher’s semen.
Mr. Berndt was ordered back to court on March 28, when a date will be set for his preliminary hearing.
Immediately after the scandal broke earlier this month, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy ordered that more than 120 staff members at Miramonte, everyone from the principal and teachers to the cafeteria workers, be replaced because a full investigation will be disruptive and staffers will require support to get through the scandal.
“We intend to interview every adult, every adult who works at that school, whether they are a teacher or administrator, or whether they are an after-school playground worker or a custodian or a secretary,” Mr. Deasy told parents who packed a high school gymnasium.
An entire staff has come into Miramonte’s classrooms to take over teaching, and a psychiatric social worker has been placed in every classroom to help students and staff cope with any issues.
The original employees, including nearly 90 teachers, will remain out of the school at least until August, when Miramonte changes from a year-round system to a regular summer-vacation schedule. When classes resume, there will be fewer teachers and fewer students because some will be transferred to new schools that are opening.
TWT Video Picks
U.S. appetite for drugs begets violence migrants are fleeing
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- Jewish woman booted from JetBlue flight over fight with Palestinian
- Hillary Clinton dogged for refusing reporters' questions on book tour
- YOUNG: A sinking presidency, deeper after November?
- PRUDEN: A deadly enemy within exacerbating immigration crisis
- Rep. Jared Polis' anti-fracking crusade riles Colorado
- MERRY: Handicaps in Hillary's way
- Hamas terrorists wear Israeli army uniforms to ambush soldiers in Gaza
- U.S. scrambles as violence escalates in Israel-Hamas conflict
- Edward Snowden to work with Russia on anti-spy technology
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq