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LA Unified says it followed the law in handling abuse reports

LA School Report | May 2, 2014

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Mark Berndt, teacher accused of abusing children

Mark Berndt, teacher accused of abusing children

In the face of reports that Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt molested many more children than previously known, according to an LA County Sheriff’s investigation, LA Unified today said it followed prescribed legal regulations in dealing with reports of the allegations.

The sheriff’s report included the assertion that the school district in 2008 destroyed about 2,000 reports involving charges of molestation, as reported first today by the LA Times.

While the report was confidential, it was summarized at a hearing this week by LA County Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley, the Times said. With 60 former students and about 40 parents seeking damages, the first trial is scheduled for July.

“Unfortunately, as Judge Wiley pointed out in his ruling, Mr. Berndt went to extreme lengths to hide his behavior from everyone, including the school district,” Sean Rossall, a spokesman for the district said today in a news release, explaining why the district destroyed the documents.

He added: “As far as the duplicate law enforcement records referenced, the school district voluntarily requested and maintained copies of these documents until 2008. Originals of Suspected Child Abuse Reports were filed with law enforcement and child protective agencies. When the school district reviewed the law regulating possession and disclosure of these records, it realized that it had erred by collecting these highly confidential law enforcement documents and made sure to bring its policies inline with statute. It destroyed this duplicate information.”

Rossall told the Times that in 2008, state law banned the district from possessing the abuse report forms because of privacy rules, and the district was ordered to destroy them.

For more background on the case and its latest developments, the LA Times story is available here.


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