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2nd teacher arrested from Miramonte Elementary School

February 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A second teacher at Miramonte Elementary School was arrested, accused of fondling two girls. The news comes just days after a former teacher there was charged with committing lewd acts on nearly two dozen children.

The second teacher, identified as 49-year-old Martin Springer, was removed from contact with children on Thursday after someone made accusations against him, said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy.

Springer, a second-grade teacher, was arrested Friday at 10 a.m. for lewd acts on a child. He is being held on $2 million bail.

"The allegations involve two girls who were allegedly fondled in the classroom at Miramonte School by suspect Springer. They were approximately 7 years old at the time of the incidents, which were alleged to have occurred during the past three years," said Capt. Mike Parker of the sheriff's department.

Springer grew up in Alhambra, moved away as an adult, and then came back a couple years ago after his mother died. Neighbors said they never saw many people at his house, and they didn't even know he was a teacher.

"Shocking, I just can't believe it," said neighbor Gabriel Urrutla. "We used to play with the guy when we were little."

The arrest comes just days after Mark Berndt, a former teacher at the school, was charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010. Prosecutors say the 61-year-old took photos of his students where they were blindfolded and gagged, and some had a roach on their faces. In some cases, the veteran teacher allegedly held spoons of semen to their mouths.

Investigators have checked if the cases were linked.

"I'm not aware of a connection per se, but obviously, they both teach at the same school, so they know each other," Parker said.

Many parents were fuming after learning of the latest allegation Friday morning as they brought their children to school. They saw sheriff's vehicles outside the campus and a sheriff's lieutenant standing at the entrance. Many said they don't feel their kids are safe anymore and said they were pulling their students out of the school.

"I'm about ready to pull out my child out of the school because I don't know, there's too much going on at this school right here right now. It's a lot to think about," said parent Latanya Morris.

Parent Gloria Polanco called on the school district for stricter supervision of teachers at the school.

"The district needs to put more people here to supervise. Our children are here. We want the district to ensure us the protection and the safety of our kids. We rely on schools," said Polanco.

Some of Berndt's alleged victims are taking the first steps to sue the district.

"My client's daughter was removed from her regular class and escorted over to Mr. Berndt's class in the middle of the day for Mr. Berndt to carry out all of these sordid activities on these kids," said Brian Claypool, attorney for the alleged victims.

News of the second teacher also comes a day after authorities acknowledged a 9-year-old girl at the school claimed Berndt tried to fondle her inside a classroom in September 1993. A spokeswoman for the district attorney says Berndt wasn't charged because there was not enough evidence to prove that a crime had occurred.

Due to the sensitive issues dealing with children, the cases will be handled by the sex crimes unit of the district attorney's office.

"These are a group of lawyers who handle exclusively these type of cases, and they will be evaluating the evidence," said Sandi Gibbons of the L.A. District Attorney's Office.

Berndt was a teacher at Miramonte Elementary for 30 years. The sheriff's department expects other students will now come forward. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department at (877) 710-LASS.