Recently, several school teachers have been either charged or convicted of sexual crimes committed against children. Here are two cases, one from Los Angeles and one from Pittsburgh.
Some of these have graphic descriptions of alleged crimes.
Los Angeles – Miramonte Elementary School
Teacher Charged with Taking Bondage Pics of Students By COLLEEN CURRY Jan. 31, 2012
A former third-grade teacher in Los Angeles has been arrested for allegedly molesting nearly two dozen children after photos of students posed in bondage positions were passed to the sheriff’s department. Mark Berndt, 61, a teacher with more than 30 years experience at Miramonte Elementary School in south Los Angeles, is charged with molesting 23 children, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Police began the investigation after a photo processing facility passed along suspicious images depicting students blindfolded with their mouths covered in tape….
Authorities launched a widespread sex crime investigation, interviewing current and former students and school employees and searching Berndt’s home. They recovered a total of 390 photographs and an adult “sexual bondage” film that mirrored the photos of the children, according to a statement by the sheriff’s department today. More than 26 children from the 390 photographs have been identified; an additional 10 children have not yet been identified, police said.
Teacher Charged with Taking Bondage Pics of Students ABC News By COLLEEN CURRY | ABC News Jan. 31, 2012
A former elementary school teacher in Los Angeles has been arrested for allegedly molesting nearly two dozen children after photos of students posed in bondage positions were passed to the Sheriff’s Department. Mark Berndt, 61, a teacher with over 30 years experience at Miramonte Elementary School in south Los Angeles, is charged with molesting 23 children, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
….More than 26 children from the 390 photographs have been identified; an additional 10 children have not yet been identified, police said….Berndt was arrested Monday and charged with 23 felony counts of lewd acts upon a child. He is being held at LA County jail in lieu of $2.3 million bail.
Second Miramonte Elementary Teacher Remains in Custody – Investigators have found an additional 200 bondage-type photos of children allegedly taken by a teacher. KTLA News February 9, 2012 LOS ANGELES
Miramonte Elementary School reopened on Thursday with completely new staff, in the wake of the arrests of two teachers last week on child sex abuse charges.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said the idea behind the “clean sweep” is to re-build confidence among the many families who have lost faith in the school in the wake of the sex scandal…..
Meantime, at least two dozen students at Miramonte Elementary have retained attorneys so far.
Sgt. Dan Scott….says the photos show about 25 victims that haven’t been identified yet….
The new pictures bring the total number of photos to roughly 600. Authorities said the Berndt case could involve more than 100 children over five years. Berndt is being held on $23 million bail and is due in court for an arraignment on Feb. 21. KTLA spoke to a 10-year-old girl who said she was sexually abused by Berndt. The girl said Berndt — who was not her teacher — would contact her female teacher and ask for the her to be sent to his classroom to “get cookies during class.” “Mr. Berndt, he called my teacher and (asked) if he could borrow some students,” the girl said in the interview.
The girl said Berndt would always pick the same group of students. He gave her cookies, she said, and told her female teacher the girl had “been helping a lot.”….
Scott told KTLA that investigators have interviewed the female teacher and that, “we are satisfied with her answers she’s provided us. She is definitely not a suspect. I can’t predict what will happen in the future.”….
The Berndt case in particular has raised questions about whether the school properly handled misconduct issues in the past. Authorities have acknowledged that a 10-year-old girl claimed Berndt tried to fondle her in 1994. Sheriff’s detectives investigated the allegation, but the district attorney’s office rejected the case, saying there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
Additionally, two women, who are now adults, said school officials investigated rumors about Berndt back in 1990. One of the girls told the Los Angeles Times that a counselor told her and two other girls to stop inventing stories after a complaint that Berndt appeared to be masturbating behind his desk.
In another instance, a woman who discovered love-letters written by a Miramonte teacher’s aide to her 11-year-old son was not taken seriously….
And in 2005, Richard Guevara, a former teacher’s aide at Miramonte Early Education Center, was convicted of committing lewd acts with children. He had been investigated for improper behavior as far back as 1995, but it was a case from 2003 that led to his conviction. In that case, Guevara received a sentenced of 15 years to life in prison.
Entire staff to be replaced at LA school where 2 teachers were arrested By msnbc.com staff and news services 2/7/12 The Los Angeles Unified School District is replacing the entire staff of Miramonte Elementary following the arrest of two teachers on lewd conduct charges last week, Superintendent John Deasy told parents at a meeting Monday night, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Why Miramonte Was The Perfect Stalking Ground For Child Sex Abusers 02/10/2012 Miramonte Elementary, the site of the Los Angeles school sex abuse scandal may have been the perfect place for an abuser to prey on vulnerable, disadvantaged children.
The school’s 1,400 students come mainly from impoverished Latino homes, and some of their parents are illegal immigrants –meaning they are hesitant to approach authorities for fear of being deported
Abusers Target Impoverished Schools Feb 10, 2012 LOS ANGELES
The charges are shocking, but the choice of victims comes as little surprise. The horrors alleged at Miramonte Elementary School echo previous cases of sexual abuse: vulnerable children, plied with attention and gifts and groomed to trust adult predators. The abuses claimed here may be different – children blindfolded, gagged and fed a substance investigators say was semen. But the setting follows a pattern alleged at Penn State University, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of using a charity he founded to target vulnerable boys from single-parent homes or troubled families, people unlikely to speak out.At Miramonte, the victims could hardly have been more disadvantaged: The 1,400 students are virtually all from poor Latino homes.
….Ellen Greenwald, a University of Texas-Dallas psychologist, says kids who are victims of sex abuse often fear that going to adults will get them in more trouble and that no one will believe them, or that adults will blame them. “That’s what really creates the silence that continues,” she says.
Lisa Aronson Fontes, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts who wrote Child Abuse and Culture: Working with Diverse Families, says, “There’s a culture of silence at most schools … and a culture of disbelief and denial.” http://www.wltx.com/news/national/article/172940/142/Abusers-Target-Impoverished-Schools
Calif. AG Should Review Miramonte Sex Abuse: Lawyer
An attorney representing six alleged victims of abuse at Miramonte says sheriff’s detectives aren’t up to the task of investigating possible cover-up By Jason Kandel and Patrick Healy Feb 11, 2012
Going on the attack, a lawyer on Friday said the LA County Sheriff’s Department is “unequipped” to properly investigate sex abuse allegations at Miramonte Elementary School and called on the California Attorney General’s Office to help.
Brian Claypool, an attorney representing six alleged victims of abuse at the Florence school, said he didn’t believe sheriff’s detectives were up to the task of investigating the allegations and possible cover-up that allowed abusive behavior for two decades
Miramonte teacher was paid $40,000 to drop dismissal challenge – LAUSD says it paid Mark Berndt to settle his challenge because it was blocked from investigating and defending its firing of the Miramonte Elementary teacher accused of sexually abusing students. By Howard Blume, Angel Jennings and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times February 10, 2012
The Los Angeles Unified School District paid Mark Berndt, the teacher at the center of the Miramonte Elementary child abuse scandal, $40,000 to drop the challenge to his dismissal last year.
VIDEO: Teacher in Miramonte Scandal Paid $40K To Resign – Lynette Romero reports – The Los Angeles Unified School District says it paid Berndt $40,000 to drop the challenge to his dismissal last year. http://www.ktla.com/videogallery/67997624/News/VIDEO-Teacher-in-Miramonte-Scandal-Paid-40K-To-Resign-Lynette-Romero-reports
Pittsburgh – Tender Care Learning Center
Ex-teacher gets decades in prison for child molestations Monday, January 30, 2012 By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A former teacher at Tender Care Learning Center in Scott pleaded guilty to 13 cases involving child molestation and child pornography this morning in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Matthew K. Byars, 26, was sentenced to 35 to 70 years in prison for his actions abusing 12 boys, ranging in age from 6 to 17 years old. He also must register for life as a sex offender. The families of the boys agreed to the plea deal in part to end the case quickly and avoid having them testify.
“We made an offer that will not victimize these boys any further,” said Deputy District Attorney Laura Ditka….According to Ms. Ditka, Mr. Byars molested seven boys he taught at Tender Care, met the cousin of a boy there who he also abused, and molested two other boys.
He befriended the boys at the daycare, as well as their families, and often took them on outings, organized pickup hockey games, brought them to his church and invited them to sleepovers at his home. In some instances, the boys were fondled and photographed or recorded on video. In others, they were forced into sex acts or sexually assaulted, Ms. Ditka said….
Speaking briefly, Mr. Byars apologized. “I do realize the affect of my actions on so many people,” he said. “I truly am sorry.” http://www.postgazette.com/pg/12030/1207008-100.stm
Day care teacher gets 35 years for sexual assaults on 12 boys Tuesday, January 31, 2012 By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
….According to Ms. Ditka, Mr. Byars, 26, of the West End, sexually abused seven boys he taught at Tender Care, as well as the cousin of a boy who attended the center. He also abused four others. He befriended the boys at the day care, as well as their families, and often took them on outings, organized pickup hockey games, brought them to his church and invited them to sleepovers at his home. While at Tender Care, Ms. Ditka said, Mr. Byars would sometimes call boys out of line when they were going outside and have them stay back with him. In some instances, he assaulted them there.
In other cases, he took the boys to his home where he showed them pornography and photographed and recorded them on video performing sex acts. He also set up a video camera in his shower and recorded the boys while they washed. Mr. Byars told them to “flex” their muscles when he photographed them, the prosecutor said. In one instance, Mr. Byars made a boy engage in oral sex to let him play video games.
Police became aware of Mr. Byars’ actions when the mother of one boy told her son “Mr. Matt” wanted to take him to the movies. The woman explained the terror she saw in her son’s eyes that day, and how the boy reacted to what she had said. “It all makes sense now,” she said. “How my son went from an open, caring, loving little boy to an angry, fearful and sad lost soul.”
Her son had been having head- and stomachaches daily. She took him to doctors, and he was diagnosed with having anxiety.