In a stomach-churning case out of Los Angeles, California, 62 year-old former Miramonte Elementary School Teacher Mark Berndt has pleaded “no contest,” the equivalent of a guilty plea, to 23 charges stemming from Berndt depraved “tasting game” with third-graders.
Berndt has admitted to blindfolding his third-grade students and feeding them cookies laced with his own semen. Berndt first came under suspicion when a pharmacy photo technician called the police about strange photographs of blindfolded third-graders brought in by Berndt. An investigation turned up several spoons in Berndt’s classroom garbage can covered with cookie crumbs and Berndt’s sperm.
In January 2011, Berndt was removed from the classroom and fired. In a widely criticized move, the Los Angeles Unified School District paid Berndt $40,000 to drop his appeal against the school district. School officials justified the move as the most expedient way to assure that Berndt is kept away from the children.
School and government officials have come under fire for their lack of response to allegations of sexual abuse. Berndt has been previously accused of sexual misconduct on five different occasions and each time the school declined the opportunity to pursue a full investigation of the allegations. Another teacher from the same elementary school is currently awaiting trial on allegations that he fondled a second-grader.
Berndt has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. The school district is currently facing lawsuits on behalf of the traumatized school children in the total amount of $29.5 million.
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