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Miramonte teacher resigns in advance of hearing over job

Martin Springer never was tried for misconduct, but L.A. Unified did not want him back

A teacher who became a figure in the Miramonte Elementary child abuse case resigned Friday from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Martin Bernard Springer, 52, had been fired by the district. He had appealed that decision and faced an administrative hearing on Monday.

"Another chapter in Miramonte has closed,” said David Holmquist, general counsel for L.A. Unified, adding that students would have testified at that hearing.

In papers presented to the administrative panel, the district claimed that Springer inappropriately touched more than a dozen students and also was guilty of other misconduct.

Springer, who was never convicted of a crime, denied any wrongdoing.

"I am proud of my service at Miramonte Elementary School and that I had a positive impact on hundreds of students," Springer said in a statement. "I hope I will have the opportunity to teach in the future in a different venue. After three years of legal issues which will likely drag on, however, it is time for a new beginning."

Holmquist said that Springer did not receive a settlement. He will be entitled, under state law, to collect pension benefits that he has earned.

Springer, who taught at Miramonte for more than two decades, came to the attention of authorities when they questioned students after opening an investigation into a colleague, Mark Berndt.

From the start, Berndt was the central focus of the case. Investigators said Berndt fed his semen to blindfolded students as part of what he allegedly called a “tasting game.”

Berndt pleaded no contest to 23 counts of lewd conduct and, in 2013, received a sentence of 25 years in prison.

The case eventually cost the district $11 million in legal fees and resulted in settlements totaling $169 million, by far the costliest such case in the nation’s second-largest school system.

The fallout also included changes in state law and in the way the school system handles complaints and investigations.

Officers arrested Springer, a third-grade teacher, four days after Berndt. Springer was charged with three felony counts of committing lewd acts. But those charges were eventually dropped.

The arrest amplified the furor around the campus. District officials replaced all 85 teachers at Miramonte, located in Florence-Firestone, southeast of downtown. The teachers were reinstated the following school year.

Springer remained in limbo. Investigators interviewed 102 children about the teacher, but his criminal case hinged on the testimony of one girl who said he had touched her leg several times.

She alleged that when she was in third grade, she frequently approached Springer with questions while volunteering in his classroom during recess. He allegedly would crouch in front of her and place his hand on the back of her leg for several seconds, she testified at the 2012 preliminary hearing.

When the girl decided not to testify in the criminal trial, prosecutors dropped their case.

Twitter: @howardblume 

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