Al Seib / Pool via AP
Mark Berndt, a former Los Angeles-area elementary school teacher at Miramonte Elemenary is arraigned in Los Angeles Municipal Court Metropolitan Branch on Tuesday.
Updated at 1:47 p.m. ET: LOS ANGELES -- The former Miramonte Elementary School teacher accused of taking bizarre photos of youngsters, some with spoons of semen held to their mouths, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of committing lewd acts involving more than 20 children.
Mark Berndt is one of two former teachers at the Florence school accused of lewd acts with students. Three uniformed deputies escorted Berndt into the downtown Los Angeles courtroom Tuesday morning.
Berndt, 61, was arrested Jan. 30 after an investigation prompted by a film processor's discovery of about 40 photos of children, ages 7 to 10. Berndt allegedly committed the crimes between 2005 and 2011. He is being held on $23 million bail.
The allegations against him and another Miramonte teacher charged with groping two students have led to lawsuits from former students and the temporary removal of the school's entire staff.
The second Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, has pleaded not guilty to committing three lewd acts on one girl in class in 2009. Springer, 49, was freed on bail early Friday, though the Los Sheriff's Department said he was fitted with a court-ordered electronic ankle monitor. His next court appearance April 16.
The Los Angeles Times reported that civil attorneys also plan to file lawsuits against the L.A. school district on behalf of at least 60 alleged victims.
According to the newspaper, lawyers are making additional accusations that are not contained in the original criminal charges, including claims that Berndt fed students cookies with semen on them.
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