May 3, 2017
Teacher Molests 23 Third-Grade Children, Wants To Use Immigration Status As Tool In Court

Lawyers for the Los Angeles Unified School District have asked that judges allow the immigration status of victims and their families to be brought up in the court case surrounding a major child sex abuse scandal.

The Los Angeles Times notes that the case is in regards to the school's negligence in removing a teacher from service after sexual abuse allegations. The documents in the case show that district officials knew about allegations against teacher, Mark Berndt, all the way back in May 1983. That is almost a decade earlier than the school had previously disclosed to the public. Berndt, 63, pleaded no contest last year to lewd conduct, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison for molesting and sexually abusing 23 third grade children.

Berndt taught at Miramonte from 1979 to 2011, when investigators began to look into his conduct based on photos turned in to police. He was later accused of spoon-feeding his semen to blindfolded students as part of what he called a "tasting game." The filing comes after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge overseeing the case ruled that much of the evidence in the civil trial can be publicly disclosed, except for names and identifying information of victims and their parents, police investigative reports, and Berndt's personal information such as his Social Security number. Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. said that he would not "shield information from disclosure merely because it is damaging or of an upsetting nature." As a result of the evidence in the case against Berndt, all 120 teachers and staff members of that school were fired.

Following the release of the startling details of the case and conviction of Berndt, families began filing lawsuits against the school district itself, noting that they should be held liable for allowing Berndt to teach for nearly three decades before taking action. Fox News reports that attorneys representing about 60 students and 40 parents have filed suit against the district, and that the district has already settled 63 claims for $30 million.

Attorneys for the families and children note that the latest attempt to force the immigration status of those filing the complaints is a scare tactic on the school district's part to try to get families to settle for less outside of court. Attorney Luis Carrillo says it is "just another dirty tactic" by the district in this already disturbing case.

"They don't have to bring in this. This is just another smoke screen to stir up the jury against the plaintiffs. This is just another dirty tactic to try to pressure the parents to accepting the crumbs that the parents have already rejected."

According to California law, a plaintiff's immigration status does not matter in a case unless there is an issue regarding future potential loss of earnings or wages.