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Former Student Says Accused Teacher Was ‘Weird’ 2 Decades Ago

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[Note: Story is graphic and contains disturbing details]

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Graduate student Nadine Martinez Rodriguez says she is not at all surprised at the arrest of teacher Mark Berndt.

She was in Berndt’s class two decades ago.

By phone from Santa Barbara, she spoke with CBS2 and KCAL9 reporter Serene Branson. She recalls then that Berndt’s hand was “always in his lap … vaseline in his drawer.”

Rodriguez says, “It’s so sad… all the kids who had to go through his class and deal with his weird behaviors.”

She says now that she and other girls told their parents — and counselors –  about their teacher — dating back to 1991 — but they were dismissed and accused of having it all in their heads.

Berndt, 61, formerly a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School was arrested at his Torrance apartment Monday after being accused of taking sexually-suggestive photos of his 7-10-year-old students. The photos reportedly include scenes of bondage, tape over their children’s mouths, cockroaches being placed on their faces. Others showing the students being spoon-fed a milky-white substance that lab tests later confirmed contain the teacher’s DNA.

Some of the more than 300 photos were allegedly uncovered by a photo lab tech in January 2011. (Commercial film developers are required by law to report child porn images to police.)

Berndt, a teacher since 1979, is under investigation.

Angry parents, former students, the public … want to know how he could teach for decades, reportedly abuse students, and get away with it all this time. Says Rodriguez, “It’s sad that it had to take this long.”

Berndt’s bail was set at $23 million.

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