Parents Keep Children Home From School in Sex-Abuse Case
Published: February 6, 2012
LOS ANGELES — Parents of students at an elementary school here where two teachers were arrested on accusations of child sexual abuse marched outside the school on Monday and refused to allow their children to attend classes, protesting what they said was the failure of school officials to act against the violation and explain the extent of the abuse.
Parents rallied outside Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, where two teachers were accused of sexually abusing children.
Since the first arrest last week, tensions have escalated at Miramonte Elementary School, and assertions by the police and the Los Angeles Unified School District that the school had acted quickly and that the cases were not related have done little to calm nerves.
On Monday morning, about 60 parents from this primarily Latino, working-class South Los Angeles neighborhood staged a protest outside the school, and many kept their children out of school, driving attendance, which was more than 97 percent a week ago, down to 72 percent. In addition, the parents of three students filed a claim for monetary damages against the school district on Monday, alleging their children had been abused. Their lawyer said more claims would be brought later this week.
Like many parents, Josye Corona worried her son may have been among those abused.
“We are trying to give the principal a message that we want answers, because they’ve been giving us the runaround, and we’re tired of it,” Ms. Corona said. “One time, my son disappeared on campus for two hours, and they didn’t know where he was. They never gave me an answer. So what do I think now?”
The crisis began last week, when Mark Berndt, who had taught at Miramonte for three decades, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with 23 counts of committing lewd acts upon a child.
As the police investigated the case, accusations against another teacher at the school, Martin Springer, came to light, and he was also arrested on Friday, accused of groping two 7-year-olds. On Monday, a janitor at another elementary school in the district was also arrested, accused of molesting a student.
The school district has worked to try to quell parents’ fears. Officials would not comment on the abuse cases on Monday afternoon, but parents at Miramonte were invited to a meeting with the district’s superintendent, John Deasy, on Monday night, and classes at the school were canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday while investigations into the alleged abuse continue.
Some parents have already begun looking for new schools for their children. Others at Monday’s protest said the school should be shut down indefinitely, or the entire faculty fired.
“I want them to clean up the whole school,” said Nancy Linares, who kept her granddaughter out of school on Monday, and helped organize the protest. “Get rid of everyone from the janitor to the principal.”
Dr. Sharon Cooper, a forensic pediatrician and child abuse expert at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said this communal loss of trust is often the most lasting effect of multivictim child abuse cases.
“Instead of looking at an individual as an isolated offender, parents will sometimes look at the system as just not safe,” Dr. Cooper said. “That can cause them to turn away from important services like education.”
National / World News 11:06 p.m. Monday, February 6, 2012
Official: Entire Faculty to be removed at LA school
LOS ANGELES — The entire faculty at Miramonte Elementary School will be removed following allegations of child sex abuse against two teachers, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy said Monday night at a meeting with parents.....
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