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In school sex scandal, parents fear deportation if they talk

Los Angeles school district administrators move to replace the entire staff of the Miramonte Elementary School after two veteran teachers were arrested for victimizing students. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies on Wednesday rushed to dispel rumors among Latino families that they would be deported if they come forward with information about child sexual abuse allegations at Miramonte Elementary School, where two teachers have been arrested.

"We've seen a reluctance among families to come forward on the advice of lawyers," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott told msnbc.com. "The sheriff has assured the community that a person’s legal status will not be questioned."

But many remain silent.

"People are afraid to talk. They are confused. They are scared," Jessica Dominguez, a Los Angeles lawyer who specializes in immigration cases, told msnbc.com. "Parents are worrying that if they speak out to authorities they will be deported, because some of them are undocumented."

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The case erupted last week with the arrest of third-grade teacher Mark Berndt, 61, who was charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010. He is being held in lieu of $2.3 million bail.

Parent Maria Guadalupe Garcia holds a sign reading in Spanish: "We don't want new teachers," as some parents protest replacing the staff, outside the Miramonte Elementary school in Los Angeles on, Feb. 8.

Later in the week, another teacher, Martin Springer, 49, was arrested on suspicion of committing lewd acts on children. Springer was charged with three counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14, according to authorities.

Another student who accused Springer of fondling her reportedly recanted her story, NBC News reported. Springer was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.

Second teacher from LA school arrested

The allegations have stunned families like Sergio Blanco and his wife, Marisela Blanco. The Blancos have five boys. Their 9-year-old son, Andres, is a third-grader at the school. 

Marisela Blanco told NBCLosAngeles.com immigrant families now face the difficult decision of whether to speak out or not.

"They think something is going to happen, like the immigration will come to get them," Blanco said.

Read more on the Blanco family on NBCLosAngeles.com

The school will reopen Thursday with an entirely new staff hired from a list of recently laid off workers.

“The parents and children of Miramonte are going through an unspeakable nightmare," Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said in a statement. "The fact that many of them are afraid to work with law enforcement only adds to their tragedy."

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