Skip to main content

Second teacher at L.A. school accused of 'lewd acts' against pupils

By Michael Martinez and Jaqueline Hurtado, CNN
updated 8:44 PM EST, Fri February 3, 2012
Miramonte Elementary School is a Los Angeles public school that serves grades one through five.
Miramonte Elementary School is a Los Angeles public school that serves grades one through five.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Angry parents gather outside school; one mom plans to transfer deaf son
  • A second Miramonte Elementary teacher is arrested
  • He allegedly fondled two girls about age 7, police say
  • His case is "quite different" from that of another teacher also charged with lewd acts

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Another teacher has been arrested at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles on allegations of lewd acts on young pupils, authorities said Friday.

Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said that Friday's arrest is "quite different" from the arrest earlier this week of another teacher, Mark Berndt.

Berndt, 61, was accused of taking bondage photos of more than two dozen students in his classroom, some showing suspected semen-filled spoons at the children's mouths, authorities said.

Investigators from the special victims bureau arrested the second teacher, Martin Bernard Springer, 49, of Alhambra, California, on Friday, Parker told reporters. Springer's arrest came after investigators received "new information" on Thursday morning that led them to the teacher.

Martin Bernard Springer is accused of fondling two students in the classroom.
Martin Bernard Springer is accused of fondling two students in the classroom.

Authorities say that the allegations involved two young girls "who were allegedly fondled in the classroom" by the suspect, Parker said.

The girls were about 7 at the time of the alleged offenses, which occurred "during the past three years," Parker said.

Springer's bail has been set at $2 million, according to Parker.

Los Angeles County prosecutors are reviewing whether to file charges against Springer, a spokeswoman said Friday. "We'll see have to see how far the evidence goes in the latest arrest," spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told reporters.

Aside from the two teachers being assigned to the same Los Angeles school, "I'm not aware of any connection" between them, Parker said.

Teacher Mark Berndt is accused of taking lewd photos of children.
Teacher Mark Berndt is accused of taking lewd photos of children.

Parker said he didn't know whether the two teachers allegedly committed offenses against the same pupils.

Berndt, a 30-year teaching veteran, is being held on $23 million bail: $1 million for each of the 23 counts he faces of lewd acts on a child.

Berndt's attorney is a public defender, but Los Angeles County Chief Deputy Public Defender Stanley Shimotsu was not immediately available for a comment Friday.

On Friday, about 15 angry parents gathered outside the school, complaining that administrators failed to apprise them of the investigation into the second teacher.

One mother, Isadora Arrellano, told CNN that she will transfer her 5-year-old deaf son to another school at the end of the academic year.

Second teacher arrested for lewd acts

"Right now I'm really worried for my kid," Arrellano told CNN.

"I leave my son and I go home and I don't know what's going to happen to him," she added. "He's deaf, so he cannot speak, so that's why I'm worried. I've lost all trust in this school."

Another mother, who identified herself by her middle name of Gloria, told CNN that Berndt tried to force her daughter to eat a cookie with "something white" on it. Berndt also took a photo of the girl with the cookie next to her mouth, the mother said.

"I'm worried something could have happened to my daughter because of something he gave her," the mother said.

Berndt assigned his pupils to bring cockroaches and insects to class, the mother said.

The investigation into Berndt began in October 2010, when a CVS drugstore photo technician in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County told the Redondo Police Department about finding disturbing images of blindfolded children in a processing order, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott.

The case was turned over to the sheriff's office, and after an initial investigation, investigators notified school authorities, who removed Berndt from his classroom in January 2011.

About 400 photographs collected by investigators show children blindfolded, with tape over their mouths, Scott said. At least 23 children in the images have been identified, while another 10 are unidentified, he said.

Some photos show female students with "what appeared to be a blue plastic spoon, filled with an unknown clear/white liquid substance, up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest the substance," authorities said.

Scott said a search of Berndt's classroom included a blue spoon like the one in the pictures.

The spoon and small container recovered from the classroom were sent to a criminal laboratory for DNA testing. It took seven months for investigators to identify the sample as semen, Scott said, and authorities got a sample of Berndt's DNA. He declined to reveal how.

"It took us another six to seven months to process Berndt's DNA and match it with the classroom DNA sample that tested positive for semen," he said.

Processing the DNA, identifying the children in the photos and conducting in-depth interviews with potential victims was time-consuming, Scott said in response to criticism over the year that passed before Berndt was arrested.

"We always had our eyes on him, and there was never a chance he would get away from us," Scott said.

The young students "didn't realize they were victimized," Scott said. "They thought they were being blindfolded and gagged as a game."

Berndt's public defender has not spoken to reporters about the case, which is set for arraignment on February 21.

CNN's Tom Larson, Stella Chan, Alan Duke and Stan Wilson contributed to this story.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT