L.A. Unified is named in negligence lawsuit

The Los Angeles Unified School District was named in a negligence lawsuit filed this week on behalf of 20 former Miramonte Elementary School students who say they were victims of sexual abuse by a former teacher at the school.

The lawsuit, which names several school board members as well as the current and former principal at Miramonte, claims that the district did not do enough to protect students who had lodged complaints about inappropriate conduct at the school.

Mark Berndt, who in January was charged with 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children, was not named as a defendant in the suit. He has pleaded not guilty. He was fired from the school, located south of downtown Los Angeles, a year earlier.

The charges brought intense scrutiny of the district, which launched an internal investigation to determine how Berndt, a veteran third-grade teacher, could evade suspicion for so long.


The lawsuit said that the district essentially ignored student allegations. It names several complaints filed against Berndt, including one in 1993 in which a student claimed to have been fondled by him. The suit states that no changes were made to the district’s “policies, training or supervision, or other actions to protect students,” after the complaints.

In February, the district said it did not have any record of complaints against Berndt, who is accused of gagging students with tape, blindfolding them and spoon-feeding his semen to them as part of a “tasting game.”

The district does not comment on pending litigation, said spokesman Tom Waldman.