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LAUSD settles with some Miramonte Elementary students, parents

Miramonte Elementary School is seen in this undated file photo.
March 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles Unified School District reached a settlement with several former Miramonte Elementary School students and parents of students in a sexual abuse lawsuit.

Fifty-eight claims were resolved. The amount of the settlement is $30 million, according to a source involved in settlement talks. That comes out to about $470,000 for each student. LAUSD did not confirm the amount of the settlement.

LAUSD Counsel David Holmquist said there are a total of 191 claims by students and adults against the district. Tuesday's settlement covers 58 student claims, he said.

"The idea that we can come up with a resolution that is in the students' best interests, still protects the public trust and does something to help heal the community, I think is in everybody's best interest," said Holmquist.

"It allows [LAUSD] to avoid protracted litigation and reach a fair and reasonable settlement with the school district," said David Ring, an attorney for some students.

Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt is accused of sexually molesting students at the school over several years. The alleged abuses by Berndt occurred from 2002-11, and LAUSD officials knew as early as the 1990-91 school year that he was involved in sexual misconduct, according to the lawsuits.

Berndt faces 23 counts of lewd conduct and has pleaded not guilty.

Not all of the attorneys representing parents or students joined the settlement talks. Attorney Brian Claypool wants to proceed to trial against LAUSD, saying he is seeking reform at the district. Claypool represents 12 students.

More than 225 parents and students were involved in various claims against the district. They claim LAUSD was negligent in allowing Berndt to engage in lewd conduct with students.

Luis Carillo, an attorney representing some of the families of students who were allegedly abused by Berndt, released a statement after the settlement was revealed Tuesday.

"Attorneys representing 23 kids will continue with the Miramonte lawsuits," said Carillo. He said the compensation offered was not fair, and was not offered to those who already have filed lawsuits. Carillo said the LAUSD has not addressed 11 proposals to improve children's safety. He said he would return to court on March 26.

"One of our forensic psychologists has told us that the long-term mental health care treatment over the lifetime of the kids will be in the range of approximately $576,000, life term. And so the amounts that they're putting on the table are unacceptable from our point of view," said Carrillo.

"We're not going to stop until we get some of these changes. It's not about taking a dime here and a dime there. We want to make some monumental change," said Claypool.

Tuesday's settlement still needs the review and approval of a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.

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