LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Jury selection began Monday morning in the first civil trial against the Los Angeles Unified School District stemming from a sex abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School.

“There’s no more hiding behind the conference rooms. We are now in a courtroom for the community to watch the truth coming out,” attorney Brian Claypool said.

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Claypool represents 16 of the more than 60 former students of Mark Berndt, the teacher who pleaded no contest to 23 counts of lewd acts on a child and is now serving more than 20 years in state prison.

Berndt is accused of taking photos of students while they were bound and gagged in his classroom.

Some photos featured cockroaches being placed on students’ faces, while others depicted them being spoon-fed a milky-white substance that tested positive for Berndt’s DNA.

Authorities believe Berndt, who was arrested in January 2012, committed the crimes between 2005 and 2010.

The arrest and prosecution of the former teacher lead to flurry of other civil lawsuits against the LAUSD. The district has already settled more than 60 claims for approximately $30 million.

Claypool alleges the LAUSD knew about past incidents of inappropriate behavior involving Berndt that occurred in the 1980s.

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Both side were scheduled to meet Monday afternoon about a potential settlement.

“All of these children will require lifelong therapy. We have submitted that number to the district and its lawyers they have until five o’clock today to reach a resolution,” Claypool said.

The LAUSD released the following statement about Monday’s events:

“We hope that the plaintiffs’ counsel will work with us towards a fruitful conversation. However, we remain committed to trying these matters in a sensitive and respectful manner,” LAUSD attorney Sean Andrade said.

Jury selection could continue through Wednesday. A trial date has yet to be set.


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