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Superintendent: All of L.A. school's teachers to be replaced

From Jaqueline Hurtado, CNN
updated 11:08 PM EST, Mon February 6, 2012
Miramonte Elementary is a Los Angeles public school that serves grades one through five.
Miramonte Elementary is a Los Angeles public school that serves grades one through five.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: All the new staff members have been screened, the superintendent says
  • NEW: The school's former staff will be trained and relocated to another school
  • NEW: All former staff and students will be questioned by police, he adds
  • The two teachers were arrested at the elementary school last week

(CNN) -- The entire staff of a Los Angeles elementary school where two teachers were arrested last week for lewd acts involving pupils will be replaced when the students return to class, the school district's superintendent said.

Los Angeles School District Superintendent John Deasy made the announcement during a Monday evening meeting at South Region High School #2, parents told CNN.

Deasy said everyone from the custodians to teachers at Miramonte Elementary School -- who are not being fired and are expected, after undergoing special training, to later resume work at another location -- are being removed because school administrators do not want any more surprises.

These staff members, as well as all the Los Angeles school's students, will be questioned as part of the ongoing criminal investigation, the superintendent said.

All the new staff members have been hired and trained, the superintendent said. Social workers have also been hired, ready to work with teachers and parents.

The announcement came Monday evening during a meeting in the high school's packed auditorium. The facility filled up so quickly that about 200 angry, befuddled parents were not allowed in.

Instead, those outside chanted "We want justice."

"I can't understand how things like that happened," said Bessy Garcia, adding that two of her children were among one of the teacher's alleged victims. "Now our life has changed. We feel completely destroyed."

She described how she and her two children were having troubled sleeping, eating and functioning as they wrestled with the emotional roller coaster of the past week -- a sentiment echoed by other parents as well.

"It's been like hell," said another parent, Claudia Riveras. "We're just trying to get some answers."

Last Tuesday, teacher Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested and accused of taking bondage photos -- some showing suspected semen-filled spoons at the children's mouths, authorities said.

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

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.

On Friday, a second teacher -- Martin Bernard Springer, 49 -- was arrested for allegedly fondling two young girls in the classroom.

Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said Springer's arrest is "quite different" from Berndt's.

On Sunday, school district spokesman Tom Waldman said that Miramonte would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday "to take a break." He referred to these as "pupil-free" days, and did not say whether staffers will be in the building.

The school was open Monday, though many students were kept away by parents who were participating in a morning rally.

"We're saying enough is enough," community leader Morris Grifton said at that demonstration. "We want cameras in the classrooms, in the hallways and around the school."

CNN's Greg Botelho, Antoinette Campbell, Greg Morrison, Michael Martinez, Tom Larson, Stella Chan, Alan Duke and Stan Wilson contributed to this report.

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