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Fear of Deportation Kept Miramonte School’s Parents From Reporting Sex Abuse

Posted: Feb 13, 2012

Two teachers have been charged with multiple counts of lewd conduct against several students at Miramonte Elementary—a school in South Los Angeles who’s student body is made up of 98% Latinos and 2% black students. Lawyers say at least three alleged victims have not been interviewed by law enforcement because their parents fear deportation.

Mark Berndt was charged last week with 23 counts of lewd conduct against children; another teacher, Martin Springer, was charged this week with three counts of lewd conduct. Berndt is alleged to have taken photographs of blindfolded children being spoon-fed his semen, according to the LA Sheriff’s newsroom.

The investigation began over a year ago when over 40 photographs depicting children in a school classroom, with their eyes blindfolded and mouths covered with tape, were turned in to law enforcement by a film processor. Parents are furious because they only learned about the investigation last week.

Miramonte Elementary School is located in an unincorporated area of South Los Angeles within the Florence-Firestone area which according to the school is a “predominantly Hispanic” community. It’s unclear how many students at the school have undocumented parents but 56% of the students are English language learners, about 1% are considered “migrant” students and the school has a “Migrant Education Program” and an “Emergency Immigrant Education Program,” leading many to believe, including the Sheriff, that there may be many parents who fear coming forward because they are undocumented.

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