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NBC: District paid teacher at center of LA abuse scandal to settle

Mark Berndt, the teacher at the center of the shocking Miramonte child sex-abuse scandal, was paid $40,000 by the Los Angeles Unified School District in June of 2011 as part of a settlement. KNBC-TV's Joel Grover reports.

Los Angeles Unified School District paid the teacher at the center of the Miramonte child sexual abuse scandal $40,000 as part of a settlement in the wake of accusations of classroom behavior deemed “immoral” and “unprofessional” as well as a claim of “evident unfitness for service.”

In a financial settlement reached in June of 2011, the Los Angeles Unified School District paid Mark Berndt $23,980.10 in back pay and $16,019.90 in legal fees, according to documents obtained in a joint investigation by 89.3 KPCC and NBC4.

Under the agreement, Berndt, 61, is entitled to his full pension and retirement health benefits.

Among the accusations levied against Berndt in an administrative hearing:

  • blindfolding students and allowing himself to be blindfolded;
  • taping several students’ mouths as well as his own;
  • spoon-feeding students “an unknown cloudy-colored liquid substance”;
  • and feeding students cookies with “an unknown cloudy-colored liquid substance.”

Berndt “exhibited poor judgment, unprofessional and immoral conduct” during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, according to an Accusation and Statement of Charges filed by the district.

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The former third-grade teacher also “touched several students by placing his arms around them,” according the document.

The allegations were levied in a proceeding before the Office of Administrative Hearings, a quasi-judicial court that hears administrative disputes.

Read the original story, watch video on NBCLosAngeles.com

Under the terms of the settlement, Berndt, who had been suspended without pay after teaching at Miramonte for 30 years, was retroactively reinstated to “paid status.”

The settlement, signed by Berndt, his attorney and an attorney for the district, also stipulates that “neither of the parties admits or concedes any of the claims, defenses, or allegations that were raised.”

The deal opened the door for Berndt to receive his full district pension and health benefits.

The district first started looking to get rid of Berndt about a year ago. In February of 2011, the district suspended Berndt from his teaching position at Miramonte and notified him that they intended to fire him.

In March, he objected to the dismissal and requested a hearing, which was set for October.

But in June, Berndt and the district settled.

The case first came to the public’s attention in January, when Berndt was arrested and held on $23 million bail for allegedly committing felony molestation with 23 children ages 6 to 10.

In early February, a second Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, 41, was arrested on suspicion of committing lewd acts on a child.

Several days later, it came to light that former teacher’s aide Ricardo Guevara was convicted and sentences to 15 years in prison in 2005 for committing lewd acts with children.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy shut down the school for two days and moved the entire staff to another school that is not yet open. Miramonte reopened on Wednesday with an entirely new staff.

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