In a significant ruling last Friday, a judge approved a $6,000 fine against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for its failure to disclose photos relating to the Miramonte Elementary School abuse scandal. The case – which resulted in former teacher Mark Berndt being sentenced to 25 years for sexually abusing students – has continued to stir up controversy, including allegations that LAUSD destroyed evidence and witness accounts and an admission that the district destroyed records of sexual abuse allegations in its public schools dating to 1988.
The fine was issued during a hearing in the civil lawsuits filed against LAUSD after Berndt was convicted. The Senators (Ret.) Law Firm is currently working with other advocates to represent some of the victims and families involved in this case.
According to court records, the fine comes as a result of LAUSD failing to disclose the existence of more than 300 photos – many of which depict the alleged child abuse and were taken by Berndt himself. In 2011, the photos were shared with LAUSD by investigators. After being asked for any photographs relating to the case by plaintiff’s attorneys last July, however, LAUSD stated that it was not aware of any photos.
After a former district employee stepped forward to state that he had seen such photos while working for LAUSD, the district submitted the photos to the court early last month. Although district officials have denied allegations that it attempted to conceal evidence, a judge upheld the $6,000 sanction. Civil trials are scheduled for September.