SOUTH LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Some Miramonte Elementary teachers returned to the South Los Angeles school on Tuesday after they were removed earlier this year following a child abuse scandal involving one of their colleagues.
Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested Jan. 30 after he allegedly took photos of blindfolded and gagged students with a roach on their faces or semen-tainted spoons or cookies held to their mouths.
He faces 23 counts of committing a lewd act on a child between 2005 and 2011. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, which involved 23 children who were 7 to 10 years old.
In February, Superintendent John Deasy transferred the entire teaching staff away from Miramonte because of the incident.
Deasy said he wanted a complete investigation into the scandal.
“To make sure there were no more surprises at that school…to make sure everybody received support… adults and teachers. And to (make sure) parents knew that safety is number one in this district,” he said.
More than 40 of the 78 teachers are back at Miramonte.
“No bitter feelings. I got paid. I was compensated. I didn’t do anything,” said teacher Andrea Schaffer.
According to new principal Martha Contreras, the goal of the school is to look forward.
“Everybody is very hopeful. They’re enthusiastic about getting back into the school. Parents want to send their kids to Miramonte,” she said.
As for Berndt, he’s awaiting trial at a Los Angeles County jail.