Miramonte abuse case: LAUSD settlement offer expires


The LAUSD's offer to settle about three dozen lawsuits expired 5 p.m. Friday. One of the attorneys involved said only one of his client families accepted the offer.

The LAUSD's settlement Web page showed a countdown clock ticking down the hours, minutes and seconds until the offer expired. It offered about $17 million to settle lawsuits by students and their families who are alleging sexual abuse at Miramonte Elementary School.

"To me it indicates their desperation," said attorney Luis Carrillo, who represents 23 of the families. He thinks the offer was unethical.

"When they put up the Web page, that was a direct communication to our clients because the Web page says 'Contact your attorney to accept the settlement.' In other words, it's like putting pressure, intimidating tactics on our clients to contact us to say 'we want to accept,'" said Carrillo.

LAUSD legal counsel told Eyewitness News Friday: "We put up that website to inform the community. Our sincerest hope is to resolve these cases in the best interests of the children and we're hopeful this is yet another settlement of many. ... We will continue to work on improvements for students safety district wide."

Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt is accused of 23 counts of lewd acts with children. According to the lawsuits, LAUSD officials knew as early as 1990 that Berndt was involved in sexual misconduct.

The proposed offer would pay each child nearly a half-million dollars. The official website shows how the settlements could be invested to generate income and provide for the children's future needs.

Officials on Friday said: "We really believe the offers are fair and provide for the long-term educational and health needs of the students."

Carrillo had hoped the children would not have to go through the court system, but some families say it needs to be done.

"The parents and the kids will go through the process because they want to see some positive changes come out of this tragedy," said Carrillo.

The cases now move on to court. Carrillo says there are depositions scheduled for later this month. He still hopes the district will make a different offer.

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