This Mark Berndt case is so vile, so disgusting, it turns your stomach. It troubles me in so many ways, it’s difficult to be analytical about it. Miramonte Elementary is only about 12 miles from where I live, a couple miles east of the infamous Florence and Normandie intersection dubbed the ‘flashpoint’ of the 1992 riots. In Los Angeles’ terms, it’s a stone’s throw away. In neighborhood terms, it’s in another world. I haven’t even begun to wonder if poverty plays any role in this. Anyway, I can’t wonder while I’m sitting here holding my head.
Los Angeles teacher charged with lewd acts
Scott Gold, Richard Winton and Paloma Esquivel | Los Angeles Times
In the fall of 2010, a drugstore photo technician was running a batch of 35-millimeter film when a disturbing image tumbled out of the machine — a child, blindfolded with a white cloth and gagged with clear packing tape. From that first photograph, detectives spent the next year following a trail that led them to a South Los Angeles elementary school.
They say they found acts of staggering depravity.
There were more photos, it turned out — 400 more, traced to an apartment in nearby Torrance, then to a bustling schoolhouse in South Los Angeles. There, officials alleged Tuesday, a veteran third-grade teacher sought sexual gratification by spoon-feeding his semen to his students.
The question today is: If they had photos of his “staggering depravity” in, say, October of 2010, why was he fired in March 2011? Why was he arrested only this week? There’s an extraordinary time lapse between his acts being discovered and his being put in jail.
I can understand that some evidence may be difficult to gather. The victims were often blindfolded, meaning they couldn’t even act as witnesses to some of what was going on. They maybe never knew they were being photographed. That no one reported him earlier and that he was a veteran of 30 years of teaching tell us he knew his victims and the school system well enough. He exploited both for his own ends, with horrific results.
But why wouldn’t these facts cause authorities greater alarm? Given the potential nightmare being visited upon the victims and the Miramonte school system (whose working class reputation is probably now forever shrouded in horror), why did it take months to identify him? Why would it take so long to remove him and then fire him?
The authorities’ likely assertions of the need to gather evidence should be scrupulously vetted. Perhaps the most shocking ‘report’ (we don’t yet know if this is true) is how they ‘proved’ he was feeding his semen to children.
Others depicted girls with what appears to be a spoon up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest a clear-white liquid. Children were fed Berndt’s semen from a spoon or on cookies, Marquez said.
Kids reported being fed something distasteful. A blue plastic spoon and container found in the trash in his classroom tested positive for his semen, authorities said.
Police recommended the children in the photos be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. There also may be more victims given the length of time that Berndt taught at the school, Marquez said.
If the above is correct, even though the photographs had been discovered, Berndt was allowed to continue doing as he pleased. They merely kept him under some surveillance. But for some reason they wondered about the spoon he threw in the trash . . ? So they tested it and found his semen. The authorities are going to have to explain how they couldn’t have prevented that particular child from being victimized.
And after that, it only took how long to arrest him? 10 months? Wow.