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LAUSD offers to settle 40 suits from Miramonte elementary scandal for $17M

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

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The L.A. Unified School District announced Wednesday it has submitted a proposed settlement of $17 million to 40 students who allege they were abused at Miramonte Elementary School.

The district’s top lawyer, David Holmquist, said the proposed settlement is reasonable.

“In our view, these properly take care of the students as we were committed to do when this whole thing happened, which is to provide for their health and welfare and their education for the remainder of their lives,” Holmquist said.

This settlement works out to about $425,000 per Miramonte student claiming sexual abuse.

District lawyers said that the proposed settlement was delivered to opposing lawyers during a Wednesday news conference. Lawyers for the 40 students in the proposed settlement have not commented.

It is the latest group to discuss ending litigation stemming from the scandal with the school district. In March, 58 lawsuits were settled over allegations of misconduct by ex-teacher Mark Berndt. A total of 191 civil suits were filed against the nation's second-largest school district.

Berndt taught at L.A. Unified’s Miramonte Elementary for more than 30 years. He was arrested in January 2012 after a yearlong investigation triggered when a photo lab worker told authorities about pictures Berndt brought in for processing. The photos included images of children with cockroaches on their faces, eating cookies topped with a white substance that was allegedly semen, sometimes bound and blindfolded. Berndt has been charged with 23 counts of lewd acts against children.

Law firms representing the plaintiffs, which include students and parents, have been in talks with the district to settle the cases. Some of them pulled out of the mediation talks with the district in December 2012, claiming it was not negotiating in good faith.

Previous settlements have been funded by LAUSD’s liability fund and an insurance policy, district officials have previously said.