LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles Unified School District announced today it has released more than $27 million to settle 58 claims of sexual abuse of students at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles.
The settlements, which were announced in March, bring to 63 the number of cases stemming from alleged abuse at Miramonte that have been resolved, according to the district.
“Resolving these cases in a way that provides for future health and educational needs was our top priority,” according to David Holmquist, attorney for the LAUSD. “We are glad that these funds will go directly to students, as opposed to being consumed by costly and lengthy litigation.
“We want to thank the plaintiffs and counsel who worked with us through this process and reached a settlement that is in the best interest of the children and families they represent.”
In June, the district made settlement offers totaling around $17 million to about 40 other students and their families stemming from alleged abuse at the school. Those settlements would amount to about $425,000 per student, compared to about $465,000 for the 58 cases settled in March.
District officials said the offers were fair and reasonable, but reflected the district’s dwindling financial resources.
Attorneys representing the remaining 40 students and families blasted the offers and responded by issuing a series of demands to the district calling for policy changes aimed at protecting children and rooting out abusive teachers.
Those settlement offers expired in July, but district officials said today they were still committed to resolving the remaining cases. The district also indicated it was working to ensure its insurers cover the cost of the settlements, which are being funded by the district’s general fund.
Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt is accused of carrying out most of the abuse. He is awaiting trial on nearly two dozen counts of lewd acts with children. He allegedly took photos of children with semen-tainted spoons or cookies held to their mouths.
Another former Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, is awaiting trial on three felony counts of lewd acts with a child.
The alleged abuses by Berndt occurred from 2002-11, but the students’ lawsuits contend that LAUSD officials knew as early as the 1990-91 school year that he was involved in sexual misconduct.
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