The wake of the recent sexual transgressions allegedly committed by two teachers at a Los Angeles elementary school has caused a rift between upset parents and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Following the arrests of Mark Berndt and Martin Springer, who are each suspected of molesting students in class, parents of the children attending Miramonte Elementary School made their voices heard. While demanding more protection for their children, approximately three dozen parents and supporters protested in front of the school.
Last week witnessed the arrest of Mark Berndt, a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School. Allegations suggest that Berndt would tie up his victims against their will, while simultaneously placing giant cockroaches on their faces and spoon feeding them his own semen. Subsequently, Berndt would tell the victims that they were playing a “tasting game,” in which he used a blue plastic spoon to feed children a white substance that DNA tests later revealed to be his semen. The students were told to tell Berndt whether the substance tasted salty or sweet, authorities said. Incriminating photos, along with DNA samples, have been discovered on school grounds and at Berndt’s home. In total, Berndt faces 23 counts of sexual abuse with students previously under his supervision.
No more than a week later, students claimed that Martin Springer had committed lewd and salacious acts of his own with children. Springer is accused of sexually fondling two young girls in his classroom. Springer’s arrest came after detectives interviewed him and the alleged victims on last Thursday. Subsequently, he was arrested the following day as he left a school district building in South Los Angeles. After allegations against Springer went public, several parents proceeded to take their children out of the school.
Parents of children attending the school remain furious as to how the situation was handled. Law enforcement and school officials were made aware of Berndt’s actions over a year ago. However, neglected to tell the public until his arrest last week. Subsequently, parents are enraged that she school would allow Berndt to continue supervising and teaching children when they knew of the allegations leveled against him. The allegations raised further questions about why he wasn’t disciplined by school officials, who have been lambasted by some parents for waiting a year to reveal that Berndt was suspected of blindfolding children and feeding them his own semen in his classroom in what children were allegedly told was a tasting game.
In the wake of these tragic sexual transgressions, many children stayed home Monday while parents demanded more protection at at the school. According to the L.A. Unified School District, only 72 percent of the students at Miramonte Elementary School are attending class. While children stayed home, angry parents took to the streets. Furious as to what has transpired in the last week, parents began protesting and demanding more protection for their children. Some carried a banner reading, “We the parents demand our children be protected from lewd teacher acts.”
Arianna Perez, one of the many parents demanding greater communication with education officials and the incorporation of school cameras, acknowledged that she wanted to get rid of the current staff and implement a new round of background checks. “I’m not letting them in (school),” she said of her children. “They’re scared to be in. I’m not going to put them in risk of (teachers) doing something to them.”
Protests such as this are not a common occurrence in this neighborhood. Known as a poorer community, where many parents and students struggle with the English language, parents usually keep to themselves. However, a strong proponent of Latino rights emerged to unite the parents in a common cause. Leading the charge is former state senator Martha Escutia, who lectured the enraged protestors in Spanish on how to organize a successful protest in the eyes of the media. It was Escutia that suggested a catchy name for their fledgling movement: Mothers of Miramonte.
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