News that Mark Berndt, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in Florence-Firestone California, was arrested after allegedly spoon-feeding semen to at least 23 students between 2005 and 2010 has been improbably exacerbated with the arrest of yet another Miramonte teacher on allegations of sexual abuse. Police are holding 49-year-old Martin Bernard Springer — a second grade teacher at Miramonte — in lieu of $2 million bail after two former students accused him of improperly touching them within the last three years. Captain Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has said that the investigation is ongoing and that the girls "were allegedly fondled in the the classroom at the Miramonte school by suspect Springer." They were both only 7-years-old when the abuse allegedly took place.
Springer came to Miramonte in 1986 and, like Berndt, has spent his entire teaching career at the school. Investigators say that the two men were well-acquainted and, on a particularly chilling note, school newsletters show that they took their classes on joint field trips to places like Malibu and Griffith Park. Berndt was pulled from the classroom back in January 2011 after school officials saw the photographs he'd taken of him feeding his semen to students, but he retired before his dismissal by the Board of Education could be affirmed. A year passed before his arrest. Springer was ordered out of the classroom last Thursday morning and reported for work on Friday to an L.A. Unified office where there are no students, which is standard procedure for teachers suspected of wrongdoing.
As bad as these new allegations are, there might still be more to come for Miramonte. Superintendent John Deasy said that he wants to fire Springer as soon as Tuesday, when the Board of Education will discuss the case in a closed session, and that he'll also urge the Board to fire Miramonte music teacher Vance Miller after two former students (now adults) have come forward with allegations that Miller had sexual relationships with them when they attended the school. Deasy expressed his frustration with a slow-moving system in which firing teachers accused of such grievous misconduct can be an arduous process. He added, however, that though he's "appalled" by the allegations of sexual abuse,
we must never lose sight of the fact that the great majority of the teachers in this district are caring, nurturing and understanding toward their students.
That majority of "good" teachers," though, may ultimately suffer the collateral damage caused by a growing public outrage with a system that seems powerless to protect children from sexual predators and assures that even a teacher who exploited his position of authority, like Berndt is accused of doing, will retain his lifetime health benefits from L.A. Unified and a pension of $4,000 a month.