California teacher arrested after photos indicated lewd acts on children

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Photo:L.A. County Sheriff's Dept.

An elementary school teacher of 30 years was arrested Monday in Los Angeles, California on the charge of 23 counts listed in the arrest warrant of performing a "lewd act on a child".

The bail for Mark Berndt, 61, was raised from $2.3 million, which is $100,000 per count, to $23 million today. The original bail amount had been a mistake, said a spokesperson for the district attorney.

Authorities were tipped off by a photographic developer. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office said it had investigated and surveilled the teacher for almost a year before making the arrest. Capt. Mike Parker said photographic evidence collected from the suspect’s home is alleged to show children blindfolded with cockroaches crawling across their faces or children with a spoonful of liquid substance near their mouths. Parker also said a blue spoon was recovered from trash in the suspect's classroom that "tested positive for semen." Investigators from the special victims unit interviewed over 80 children and staff. Another ten children in the photographs — besides the 23 listed victims, then 6–10 years old — have not yet been identified. The investigations focused on the years between 2008 and 2010.

Berndt was fired from Miramonte Elementary in March 2011 but he had already been separated from students since the Los Angeles Unified School District found out about the investigation earlier that year.