By Victor Skinner
LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles district leaders recently launched a website to detail settlement offers for students who were sexually abused by teachers at Miramonte Elementary School.
The district announced this spring it would be willing to pay $30 million to settle 58 claims stemming from abuse allegations at the elementary school, most of which were carried out by two teachers – Mark Berndt and Martin Springer. Both have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial, the City News Service reports.
This week district officials launched MiramonteSettlements.com to provide “accurate information and details” about settlement offers, but attorneys representing the abused children and their families contend neither the money nor the website goes far enough.
“Compensation for these victims cannot be discussed until assurances for meaningful policies are in place at LAUSD to protect children now and in the future,” Vince Finaldi, attorney for the victims, said in a press conference outside of the district’s headquarters, according to the news service.
“The lack of appropriate response to the underlying institutional issues could cause the alleged abuse at Miramonte to happen again,” he said.
According to the News Service, Finaldi wants the district to:
“Publicly disclose all documents relating to molestation at Miramonte and other schools where abuse claims are pending.
Forward a list of all teachers accused of sexual or other child abuse to the District Attorney’s office.
Begin negotiations with attorneys and the teachers union on a process for public disclosure of the names of teachers ‘credibly’ accused of abuse.
Identify all administrators who have failed to comply with child abuse reporting requirements.
Call on the District Attorney’s office and/or U.S. Attorney’s office to appoint a special counsel to investigate the district’s handling of abuse cases.
Establish a child safety office and ombudsman.
Create a blue-ribbon commission to investigate “failings at the LAUSD’ and recommend changes.”
Berndt faces nearly two dozen felony counts of lewd acts with children for allegedly taking photos of his students with spoons and cookies in their mouths that he allegedly tainted with his bodily fluids. Springer stands accused of three counts of lewd acts with a child, the News Service reports.
The settlements offered by the district would compensate each victim between $400,000 and $500,000, which district officials contend is ‘reasonable,’ while at the same time protects taxpayer dollars, according to the News Service.
But it seems obvious that protecting taxpayer dollars is pointless if district leaders aren’t doing everything in their power to protect students. Finaldi makes it clear there is a lot more district officials could and should do toward that end.