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Lawyer says he's filed 33 claims in Miramonte case

Parents of students at Miramonte Elementary School escort children out of school on Feb. 6, 2012.
Parents of students at Miramonte Elementary School escort children out of school on Feb. 6, 2012.
Grant Slater/KPCC

An attorney representing alleged victims from Miramonte Elementary School files 33 damage claims against LA Unified.

LAUSD missed "major warning bells" that something was amiss at Miramonte Elementary School, says an attorney who’s representing alleged victims there. The lawyer claims the district especially missed signs that something wasn’t right with teacher Mark Berndt, who’s pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd acts toward students.

Outside school district headquarters, Luis Carillo announced he’s filed 33 damage claims against LAUSD. They’re on behalf of 20 children - six of whom are also a part of the criminal suit against Berndt - and 13 parents, who say they’ve suffered severe trauma upon learning about what allegedly happened to their kids.

Carillo and his clients say the district had been aware of complaints against Berndt going back to 1990 but failed to make any changes in teacher training. The attorney accused the district of falling asleep at the wheel. In Spanish, he blamed that on the fact that Miramonte is in a poor, mostly Latino neighborhood.

"If parents from Santa Monica or Beverly Hills had complained, then the district would have responded much more quickly," said Carillo.

Carillo wouldn’t specify how much his clients are seeking in damages, but his assistant Arcy Carranza said a lot of the money would go toward therapy.

"They’re doing the kids individually and then the parents," said Carranza. "And I guess in time, the psychologist said that they’re going to do group therapy, so they’re trying to work on that as well."

The attorney says he hopes the lawsuit will compel the district to improve teacher training that can avert similar situations for other students and their parents.

This story has been updated.