Principal Dolores Palacio retired eight years ago, but volunteered to help Miramonte Elementary School. She hopes the students and parents can begin to restore their trust
An attorney is calling for an independent investigation into the Miramonte sex abuse scandal, claiming the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has failed to interview at least one potential victim.
Brian Claypool is representing the mother of a girl allegedly abused by Mark Berndt, 61, who is accused of taking photos of students who were blindfolded, had tape over their mouths and had spoonfuls of semen held to their lips.
At a news conference Friday, Claypool said the Sheriff’s Department failed to even interview the girl before a spokesman disputed her allegations on the radio. He said he was drafting a letter to the state Attorney General's Office asking for its involvement in the case.
The girl represented by Claypool claimed a female teacher had escorted her to Berndt’s classroom and was aware of the abuse. Berndt was arrested in late January and charged with committing lewd acts against 23 students between 2005 and 2010. Authorities have acknowledged that more victims may be possible.
“It will discourage any child from coming forward,” Claypool said. “It’s irresponsible. You don’t accuse a child of lying on public radio.”
Sgt. Dan Scott, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, could not be reached for comment by msnbc.com on Friday.
At least two dozen students at Miramonte have retained attorneys so far, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Another attorney, Raymond Boucher, said in a statement last week that the district “did not take adequate steps to prevent the abuse from occurring over and over again,” according to NBCLosAngeles.com
Last week, authorities announced the arrest of a second teacher at the school, Martin Bernard Springer, 49. He was released from jail early Friday after posting bond at about 2 a.m., a deputy told the NBC website.
The allegations against Berndt surfaced in late 2010 after a film processor contacted authorities about photos showing the children in a classroom with their eyes blindfolded, tape covering their mouths and cockroaches on their faces.
In February 2011, the Los Angeles Unified School District suspended Berndt and notified him that he would be fired, NBC. In March, he requested a hearing, which was set for October. But June 2011, the district settled with Berndt, paying him $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.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Los Angeles area, a 50-year-old former third grade teacher at a Pacoima elementary school was arrested in connection with allegedly sexually abusing four kids under 14-years-old, including one student, NBCLosAngeles.com reported.
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