The attorney for a dozen students who claim they were molested at Miramonte Elementary filed suit on Jan. 29, 2013, against a slate of LAUSD
The attorney for a dozen students who claim they were molested at Miramonte Elementary filed suit on Jan. 29, 2013, against a slate of LAUSD administrators, including Superintendent John Deasy and four of his predecessors, saying they knowingly allowed teachers suspected of sex abuse to continue harming students. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
The attorney for a dozen students who claim they were molested at Miramonte Elementary filed suit Tuesday against a slate of LAUSD administrators, including Superintendent John Deasy and four of his predecessors, saying they knowingly allowed teachers suspected of sex abuse to continue harming students.

Attorney Brian Claypool, who previously sued the district over the sex-abuse scandal at Miramonte, says in his amended suit that district administrators deliberately ignored complaints against teacher Mark Berndt and other suspected molesters.

"The conduct of these superintendents shows that they created a custom and practice and pattern of harboring suspected child predators at the expense of the safety and welfare of children," Claypool said in an interview.

Berndt was arrested a year ago on charges of molesting 13 students at Miramonte by spoon-feeding them his own semen in a bizarre tasting game. He is being held in lieu of $13 million bail.

The suit claims that Berndt molested hundreds of children during his 20-plus years at Miramonte and during his previous job in another district.

Claypool's suit also cites the case of Robert Pimentel, who was arrested last week on charges of molesting students at De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington. Complaints had previously been lodged against Pimentel in 2002 and 2008.

Authorities are investigating whether Pimentel's principal, Irene Hinojosa, failed to report complaints as required by law. Deasy was preparing to fire Pimentel and Hinojosa when they retired last March.

"Serial child abuse of this nature on such a massive scale could not have been accomplished without the aid and assistance of many other LAUSD staff and/or administration officials and without the LAUSD itself turning a blind eye to what was happening," the suit said.

The suit says the district lacked a policy for how to document or track allegations of misconduct.

It also cites the district's failure to immediately notify the state teacher licensing board that Berndt had been arrested. That and nearly 150 other instances in which the district failed to alert the Commission on Teacher Credentialing about a problem teacher were included in a critical state audit released in November.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the district, the seven-member school board, Deasy and former Superintendents Ramon Cortines, David Brewer, Ruben Zacarias and Roy Romer.

David Holmquist, the district's general counsel, released a statement saying LAUSD is committed to providing a safe environment for students.

"Appropriately addressing misconduct continues to remain a top priority," he said. "That is why we have continually engaged in extensive internal and external reviews of our policies and practices, including actively participating in the comprehensive state audit of the school district's policies and practices that was released in 2012."

Holmquist said the district has created a process to ensure that all cases involving suspected abuse are reported to the state.

The district has also implemented a policy to notify parents within 72 hours if a teacher has been pulled from the classroom because of a sex-abuse complaint. That was implemented after the district came under fire for waiting five months to alert parents at Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima that teacher Paul Chapel had been arrested for molestation.


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