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Victims' attorney sues LAUSD, alleging superintendents covered up misconduct

January 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Did the Los Angeles Unified School District try to hide the abuse of children and the alleged misconduct of teachers for decades? That is the accusation in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that targets the current and past LAUSD superintendents.

"Teachers who are suspected of child abuse are harbored and they are protected by the superintendent," said attorney Brian Claypool Tuesday.

Claypool is an attorney for 12 Miramonte Elementary School students who are alleged victims of former teacher Mark Berndt. Berndt is accused of sexual abuse against students.

Claypool filed a new lawsuit Tuesday claiming that LAUSD superintendents going back 25 years engaged in a pattern and practice of covering up sexual misconduct.

Claypool said evidence can be found by reading between the lines in district policies. One document comes from a labor union for principals seeking clarification on Superintendent John Deasy's directive to search old files for allegations of abuse that may not have been investigated.

"Administrators have been told, for example, never to place such documents in an individual's site personnel file," said Claypool, reading from a memo.

Yet the memo also illustrates current superintendent Deasy's effort to scour all records for abuse allegations, even cases that had appeared meritless.

Responding to Claypool's charges, an LAUSD attorney said in a statement:

"Appropriately addressing misconduct continues to remain a top priority. That is why we have continually engaged in extensive internal and external reviews of our policies and practices," said LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist.

LAUSD cites multiple reforms since the Miramonte scandal. Claypool dismisses the efforts, calling them a PR stunt. He says that the changes failed to identify the most recent case of alleged abuse, Robert Pimentel of George De La Torre Junior Elementary School in Wilmington.

"Is there another school in the Los Angeles Unified School District where children are being preyed upon?" said Claypool.

The next hearing in the case is set for March 1.


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