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LAUSD superintendent addresses Miramonte crisis in video

February 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy has sent a video message to district employees as they prepare for new training on recognizing child abuse.

The recent crisis and arrests of two teachers at Miramonte Elementary School was at the heart of the superintendent's message.

In the four minute video, Deasy addressed three key issues- all of them centered on Miramonte. He talked about what's happening at the school, how the district is helping students, staff and the community, as well as stressing the need to improve awareness and understanding on what to do if there is suspicion on child abuse.

"Still there are lessons we can learn from this tragedy," said Deasy. "Despite our efforts to improve instruction and survive massive budget cuts, our first responsibility is to protect the children in our care."

Deasy also asked the teachers and staff to review the district's Child Abuse Awareness Kit before they receive special training when they return to class on Tuesday. That is also when the video is expected to be shown at all LAUSD campuses.

"How is he going to remove all these teachers- most of them are excellent teachers- because of what happened with one teacher?" said parent Barbara Martinez.

The superintendent said all of the staff removed from Miramonte will be able to return once the investigations are complete. But parents who gathered at the school on Saturday said Deasy should be held responsible as well.

"He's trying to skirt the issue, skirt the blame," said LAUSD teacher David R. Garcia. "If the teachers were relocated because of this controversy then he needs to step down, he needs to resign."

The district's concern began with the arrest of Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt. The 61-year-old is accused of sexually assaulting nearly two dozen students.

A second Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, was also arrested for alleged lewd acts against a child. One of the girls later decided to withdraw the accusation.

Deasy said the two arrests at Miramonte, as well as recent arrests at other schools, does not reflect the professionalism on the thousands of other teachers and staff in LAUSD.

The superintendent says the school now has a teacher and a counselor in every classroom to help all of the students and the victims.