3 former El Sereno students accuse teacher of molestation
By Howard Blume, L.A. Times | http://lat.ms/17M3dXs
September 18, 2013, 8:35 p.m. :: Three former students of an El Sereno Elementary School teacher sued the Los Angeles Unified School District on Wednesday, charging that the teacher molested them.
L.A. Unified confirmed that it had moved to fire the teacher, Armando Gonzalez, in 2012 over alleged misconduct. But specific details about the allegations were not immediately available Wednesday night, district spokesman Sean Rossall said.
Gonzalez could not be reached for comment, and Los Angeles police were not able to confirm if an investigation was underway.
The litigation involves three of Gonzalez's former students; they did not report the alleged wrongdoing until recently. The girls "discovered that the psychological injury, illness and suffering" they subsequently experienced were "caused by the childhood sexual harassment, molestation and abuse," according to the suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The district had warning, dating to 2007, of Gonzalez's unfitness to teach based on episodes of touching, fondling and kissing girls on the lips, the suit charges. The period of abuse recounted in the lawsuit spans 2008 through 2010.
The lawsuit also alleges that there are up to 15 victims, a claim that attorney Luis Carrillo said is based on information provided to one of his clients by a school district employee.
L.A. Unified said it is looking into the matter.
“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously," Rossall said. "Our top priority is the health and welfare of our students."
Rossall added that when the district moved to dismiss Gonzalez in 2012, he contested the action. The teacher resigned last week without receiving a settlement, Rossall said.
"We have consistently refused to settle on this and aggressively pursued the dismissal until he resigned,” Rossall said.
Carrillo is one of several attorneys involved in litigation over alleged lewd conduct by former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt.
L.A. Unified has settled 63 student claims in connection with that case; 68 are still being litigated, including many of Carrillo's cases. Parents also have claimed damages related to Miramonte.
Berndt, 62, is awaiting trial. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody in lieu of $23-million bail.
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LAUSD pays out $27 million, resolves 58 Miramonte molestation claims
By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/16bLYSo
9/17/13, 11:20 AM PDT | Updated: 9/18 :: Los Angeles Unified has paid out more than $27 million to settle claims by nearly five dozen children who allege they were molested by former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, the district announced Tuesday.
The 58 settlements, reached earlier this year, are among 63 cases that have been resolved in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that triggered a slate of new district policies designed to protect student safety.
Two additional cases have been settled and are awaiting a judge’s OK for payment, a district spokesman said. About 68 other sex-abuse claims related to alleged abuse by Berndt remain unresolved.
The settlements total $30 million, giving each child roughly $470,000. The money will be invested in structured settlements arranged by the children’s attorneys to ensure their long-term costs are covered.
“Resolving these cases in a way that provides for future health and educational needs was our top priority,” said David Holmquist, the district’s general counsel. “We are glad that these funds will go directly to the students, as opposed to being consumed by costly and lengthy litigation. We want to thank the plaintiffs and counsel who worked with us through this process and reached a settlement that is in the best interest of the children and families they represent.”
The money will be paid from the district’s general fund while it pursues reimbursement from insurance companies. One of its carriers has filed suit, maintaining that the sex-abuse settlements are not covered by the district’s policies.
Berndt is accused of feeding his own semen to 23 children while teaching at Miramonte in Wilmington. He has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed in lieu of $23 million bail, pending a preliminary hearing.
Berndt was fired by LAUSD, then given a $40,000 payout to drop an appeal of his termination.