A Los Angeles school is drawing angry criticism today after a second teacher in a week has been accused of molesting children and police confirmed that the first teacher had previously been investigated for abuse.
Mark Berndt was arrested Monday on allegations that he blindfolded students in his class, forced girls to taste his semen, and put live cockroaches on their face in an attempt to mimic a bondage adult film he watched at home.
Today, the Los Angeles Sheriff's office confirmed that in 1994, Berndt was investigated for fondling a 9-year-old girl at Miramonte Elementary School, where he taught third grade.
"The victim reported that while sitting in the classroom at a table, the suspect, Mark Berndt, reached under the table toward her genitals, which were covered with clothing, and she pushed his hand away," Sgt. Dan Scott of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department told ,ABC affiliate KABC.
Scott said the girl waited two months before telling her mother about the alleged incident.
"After watching a television show on good touch, bad touch and child abuse, she told her mother," Scott said.
Berndt wasn't criminally charged in the case due to a lack of evidence, according to the Los Angeles district attorney. He continued teaching third grade at Miramonte until January 2011, when administrators learned of the current investigation.
The revelation of the new investigation comes on the same day another teacher was removed from the school for sex abuse allegations. A student, spurred on by the charges against Berndt, notified officials of new allegations, and the officials informed the sheriff's special victims unit, KABC reported.
"A new allegation came to our attention [Thursday], and we referred the allegation to the sheriff," said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy. "We removed the teacher from the classroom and the matter is being investigated."
"There is no determination from the authorities, and the person could be completely innocent," he said.
Parents from the school said that the new allegations have outraged them even further.
"You don't know how long this has been going on. He's been here for 30 years," Tamira Long told KABC, noting she was considering pulling her child out of the school.
Deasy could not be reached for immediate comment, but he was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying that the district had no records of the investigation in 1994, which did little to reassure parents at Miramonte Elementary.
"I feel like if they would investigate him more in that situation, not a lot of innocent souls would have been in this place right now," parent Jessica Jiminez told KABC.
Berndt, 61, is being held on $23 million bail.