LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The L.A. Unified School District Friday was accused of covering up child abuse reports dating back to 1988.
Brian Claypool, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the civil case against former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, has accused the district of destroying records that detail a widespread patter of alleged abuse.
“This is a public safety issue. The entire Los Angeles community should be outraged at the fact the LAUSD has intentially destroyed over 20 years of child records,” he said.
The allegations, which the district has admitted to, stem from a 512-page confidential report based on a two-year investigation by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
The original abuse reports, which were destroyed in 2008, allege Berndt abused potentially more than 100 victims, including some children who said he molested them.
Berndt, who reportedly took photos of blindfolded and gagged students with a roach on their faces or semen-tainted spoons or cookies held to their mouths, pleaded no contest to nearly two dozen counts last November .
The 63-year-old was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“Their only feeble excuse is that ‘We had to protect the privacy of the person who filed the child abuse report.’ But again, that’s not the law,” Claypool said.
“When the school district reviewed the law regulating the possession and disclosure of these records, it realized it had errored by collecting highly confidential law enforcement documents and made sure to bring its policies in line with the statute,” Sean Rossall, an LAUSD Council spokesperson said.
Rossall added that the district acted within state law when the records were destroyed.
The first of several civil cases filed by former students and parents will go to trial in early July.
Claypool says he plans to call for a federal investigation into the LAUSD.