The beleaguered Los Angeles elementary school that had two teachers arrested for child sex abuse in the past week was closed today as authorities moved to replace the entire teaching and support staff.
The entire 128-person staff at Miramonte Elementary school would be temporarily transferred out of the school for the remainder of the winter track, according to Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Lydia Ramos. The school is on a year-round schedule.
LAUSDA Superintendent John Deasy took the drastic step after teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer were arrested and charged with committing lewd acts upon children. The scandal sparked outrage among parents and attendance at the school plummeted.
The district has contacted former teachers and staff members who had been laid off during budget cuts to come back and temporarily teach at the school.
The school district is checking finger prints, backgrounds and personnel files of those individuals who are interested in coming back to temporarily teach at Miramonte to ensure that they have no record of inappropriate behavior with children, Ramos said.
The current Miramonte staff will go to a non-operational school facility and undergo interviews with administrators and investigators.
The restaffed school will reopen on Thursday, and parents will be offered the choice of sending their children to a different school.
Berndt was charged with 23 counts of lewd acts on students, including taking pictures of students blindfolded with cockroaches on their faces and forcing 9-year-olds to ingest his semen. He did not return calls for comment.
Springer became the second teacher arrested and charged this month with sexually abusing children, and is accused of fondling two girls in his class over the last three years. He was unable to be reached for comment.
The school closure comes as an attorney for at least three of Berndt's alleged victims implicated a third teacher in the sex abuse scandal.
Lawyer Brian Claypool told ABC News that he has identified a female teacher who would allegedly bring little girls to Berndt to be victimized.
"I reported to the L.A. County Sheriff's Special Victims Unit a new teacher who I believe patently aided and abetted the abuse Berndt was carrying out," Claypool told ABCNews.com.
Claypool said his accusation has come from conversations with at least three students or former students who said the teacher had a role in the alleged crimes.
"She was a teacher who would escort little girls into Berndt's classroom when he was all alone. Berndt would come over in the middle of day, whisper in her ear, and they would giggle, and then teacher would pick out two girls, escort them through a common door, so that they were stuck with a pedophile in this classroom. And that's where he was blindfolding them and spoonfeeding them semen," he said.
The district referred questions about Claypool's accusations to their lawyer. The lawyer did not respond to calls by ABCNews.com. The police also did not respond to calls from ABCNews.com.
Claypool said the alleged victims were being currently tested for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
L.A. School in Sex Abuse Scandal Shut Down
For Claypool, the administration's recent actions are too little too late.
"This is a systemic institutional problem," he said.
Claypool said his conversations with students indicated that Berndt and Springer were friends. According to the Los Angeles Times, the two teachers jointly took students on field trips, and the LAUSD confirmed that they were colleagues who worked at the school for more than two decades together.
Claypool said the students he's spoken with have expressed fear at telling the stories about Berndt, saying he had threatened that something bad would happen to them.
The recent flurry of allegations comes nearly 15 years after a student claimed that Berndt molested her in 1994. In 1991 fresh allegations were made, but students were told to "stop making up stories," according to ABC News affiliate KABC. Berndt was never charged on those accusations.
In 1995, a preschool teacher at the school was accused of molesting children. More reports about the teacher, Ricardo Guevera surfaced in 2002. He was convicted in 2005.