A teacher bound and gagged students and put cockroaches on their faces. And no child ever reported it?

I avoid posting a lot of initial reports about educators gone bad — including the recent spate of local stories about educators  “assaulting” kids — because the charges are often not substantiated.  But I have to offer up this story out of California for discussion for one reason — no student ever reported the alleged abuse, which is shocking once you read the sorts of things this teacher is accused of doing to his students. And photographing the abuse.

I wrote my master’s thesis on child abuse and understand why kids protect their parents but am baffled why no students told their parents about being bound and gagged by their teacher and having cockroaches placed on their faces. When I drive carpool, I hear a litany of so-called teacher transgressions from the kids, along the lines of, “Mrs. X was  mean because she wouldn’t give me enough time to finish my paper”  or “Mr. Y made us run extra laps in PE because some kids were talking.”

I can’t imagine not a single child alerting their parents to these horrors. Can anyone see their own child failing to report these incidents?

Here is an excerpt from the chilling story on AJC.com:

A Los Angeles elementary school teacher bound and gagged nearly two dozen children, put cockroaches on some of their faces and posed in photos with them, possibly inside a classroom, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday. The investigation began when a film processor gave authorities some 40 photographs depicting blindfolded children in a classroom with their mouths taped shut.

A sheriff’s department statement said Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested Monday at his Torrance home and remained jailed Tuesday on $2.3 million bail. The district attorney’s office said Berndt has been charged with committing lewd acts with 23 boys and girls ages 7 to 10 between 2008 and 2010.

Berndt worked for more than 30 years at Miramonte Elementary School in an unincorporated area of south Los Angeles before being fired. Some of the photos showed Berndt with his arm around the children or with his hand over their mouths. Other pictures depicted girls with what appears to be a spoon up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest a clear-white liquid. A blue plastic spoon and container found in trash in Berndt’s classroom tested positive for semen, the statement said.

Some of the children’s mouths and faces had large, live Madagascar-type cockroaches on them, according to the statement. “It makes you sick to your stomach,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy told KTTV Fox 11 News, which first reported the arrest. The teacher was immediately removed when police informed the district and was fired, Deasy said.

No student ever came forward to report the abuse, he said. The sheriff’s department said a search warrant served on Berndt’s home led to the discovery of more than 100 similar photographs depicting children.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

169 comments Add your comment

Boys don't tell

January 31st, 2012
1:09 pm

The principal of my elementary school systematically sexually abused boys including myself for years before he was caught. Of course, that was back in the day when authority figures were in authority. It does seem hard to believe in this day and age. But, look no further than Penn State.

catlady

January 31st, 2012
1:25 pm

IF true, how sick can you be?

Not Hard to Believe from GM

January 31st, 2012
1:26 pm

Maureen, this is absolutely not hard to believe. The children lived in fear. they were afraid of what would happen if they told. this is why my children will go to school with their state of the art cell phone witha robust data, voice and text plan and a state of the art video and audio recording device with instructions to freely capture any dangerous or egregious behavior — with instructions not to report it to the school system but rather to me. If they are too afraid to report it to me, I can always review their images and texts and so on on their phone.

We should have web cams in the school that parents can watch. They should be turned on all the time. It’s this type of abuse i am sure still goes on in schools everywhere because there are perverts out there wanting to harm children. This teacher-pervert obviously got his jollies terrorizing kids. I wouldn’t be surprised if he or she had dead bodies in their basement.

GM

Old timer

January 31st, 2012
1:35 pm

After more than thirty years in the classroom and raising two of my own…..I. Annot imagine children not reporting this! Someone would talk…..

Old timer

January 31st, 2012
1:36 pm

And…if it is true….he should have the same punishment..

Elizabeth

January 31st, 2012
1:43 pm

I find it hard to believe that anyone could be sick enough to do this. I find it even more difficult to fathom that children in this day and age did not report it .As for cameras in the classroom – bring them on.. Parents are welcome to observe my classroom anytime. Just don’t blame me if you do not like what you see. When you discover what really goes on in a classroom and how students behave on a daily basis, you will be outraged– but not with teachers.

Maureen, I need your email. I tried to email you an article, but it came back to me.

carlosgvv

January 31st, 2012
1:44 pm

He must have threatened the students is some way not to tell anyone.

Maureen Downey

January 31st, 2012
1:57 pm

Batgirl

January 31st, 2012
2:05 pm

I find it hard to believe that this man, if he is as creepy as he’s depicted, was allowed to teach in the same school for over thirty years. We’ve had a couple of skeevy guys through the years at my school (although they were never accused of anything quite so repulsive), and they only lasted a few years before they were sent on their way. However, it required threats from parents to get rid of them. Teacher reports of inappropriate behavior were not enough!

mystery poster

January 31st, 2012
2:18 pm

Consider this my skeptical nature, but something about this just doesn’t add up….

jarvis

January 31st, 2012
2:33 pm

@mystery poster, read the LA Times article. The police found pictures at his house. He is a sick f’er.

mystery poster

January 31st, 2012
2:36 pm

@Jarvis
I guess so….

ELMom

January 31st, 2012
2:50 pm

There are adults that do horribly terifying things to children. Often those children are either too stunned or do not feel empowere enough to say anything. I had a teacher growing up who would lock children in the back of the closet, she would tape their mouths shut and put a large box over their heads so that she and the students in my class could no longer see that child. I had a PE coach who would smack children in the head for the slightest infraction. Did I ever tell my parents? No. Why? Because my parents were always busy. They worked and honestly made it clear that my job was to shut up, go to school and get an education. So I sat silently as did the other children in my classes.

teach1

January 31st, 2012
2:56 pm

The only problem with cameras would be just as the previous poster stated. I do not worry about my action as a teacher but parents amazed at what other students do in the classroom and the privacy issues for all the students. Mom would not only be watching teacher but also 20-30 other little ones and then could report any number of issues to the principal or board. That would get alot of attention I am sure.

mahopinion

January 31st, 2012
2:56 pm

Why are you shocked that the kids didn’t report it? Only a small percentage of sexual abuse is reported each year. Children from the ages of 7-10 are particularly susceptible to being coerced in to silence.

I hope they string this guy up by his privates.

gamom

January 31st, 2012
3:00 pm

I never told my parents til I was an adult that I was slapped for being left handed. This is very common. Abusers know how to intimidate, and the children think its their fault too. No parent should trust their kids with anyone these days. And if you have a gut feeling something is not right, speak up and do something. Now….corporal punishment is still legal in the state of Georgia…there have been several cases now where this leads to abuse, injury and even abuse of a sexual nature. Parents should never consent to corporal punishment in any school district, because you have no clue who these people are what their motives are. And schools have been known to lose the paperwork or ignore it completely. In addition immunity is a problem and is a glaring loophole in the child protection laws in the state of Georgia.

gamom

January 31st, 2012
3:15 pm

Abusers will also prey on the most vulnerable. Were any of these children non-verbal or foster kids? Makes me wonder. There had to be a lot grooming going on..rewards, bribery and threats.. we will never know.

gamom

January 31st, 2012
3:24 pm

It’s not the children who are going to report it if they are scared….it’s the school that has mandated reporters in it. Maybe somebody didn’t do their job. I wonder how long this has been really going on. It’s the other adults in the school and at home who are responsible to do the reporting. I think someone did not do their job.

CT

January 31st, 2012
3:32 pm

If my child came home with a story like this, I would think she was making it up. Maybe the kids did tell their parents, but they weren’t believed. It sounds too outragous to be true.

Ashley

January 31st, 2012
3:48 pm

@ELMom….I can relate to your story, when I was in the 4th grade my teacher required each student in the class to do long division on the blackboard, when it was my turn I got several of the steps wrong, each time my teacher would hit me in the head with one of those long eraser that was full of chalk. Needless to say I was humilated and near tears, alas I didn’t tell my parents because my stepfather who was already abusive would have made it seem like it was my fault. To this day I think back on that horrible ordeal and I realize we lived in a different time where the teacher had all the power and the child had none.Although it was 45 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. From that day forward I became a whiz in math and every other subject, because in my young mind kids who were smart or learned at a faster rate, things like getting hit in the head didn’t happen. So yes I can understand why some students kept quiet. On the other hand kids aren’t as passive as we were, so I can’t believe they couldn’t find a single trustworthy adult to report this monster.

Ashley

January 31st, 2012
3:51 pm

@gamom… I shared your experience….I was left-handed also, no slapping just a lot of intimidation to be right-handed.

gamom

January 31st, 2012
4:05 pm

Personally I don’t think schools do enough to get rid of abusive teachers. They brush things under the carpet most times or pass the educator from school to school, or just let them take a leave, or don’t do anything at all. The courts in Georgia don’t do much either…it comes down to the immunity laws. Educator are the ONLY population that can say..sorry, it was ‘discipline’ and get away with what would be considered abuse if a parent did it. The courts’ hands are tied unless the laws are updated, immunity for teachers needs to be strictly limited or none at all (that will never happen because they would all lobby against it)

Inman Park Boy

January 31st, 2012
5:19 pm

In twelve years of schooling in the Atlanta Public School system I had the sweetest, kindest, and warmest teachers imaginable. I have benefited enormously in my life from these remarkable people. Thank you APS. For those of you who had a bad experience in school (or even a criminal experience) I am sorry. I count myself very fortunate indeed.

Csoby

January 31st, 2012
5:27 pm

Ahh…Government Schools at work…

Elizabeth

January 31st, 2012
5:27 pm

Thanks, Maureen1

HS Public Teacher

January 31st, 2012
6:55 pm

I need to point out two important things. However, let me say upfront that what this monster did was wrong.

1. This is one teacher out of tens of millions of teachers across the US. However, because of this one monster’s actions is it right to find fault with the teaching profession? Note the comment at 5:27 by Csoby.

2. Why is it when a teacher turns out to be a monster, it is plastered all over the news? Are you saying that not one medical doctor does anything bad? Are you saying that not one pharmisist does anything bad? What profession is WITHOUT a monster once in a while? Yet, it seems that news media loves to plaster these stories all over.
If the news media feels the need to do this, then they should be required to also plaster the GOOD and the POSITIVE people in the profession at least equally as much and as frequent!

gamom

January 31st, 2012
7:01 pm

HS Teacher – don’t you get it, the system is broken and it takes some sunshine on the subject. Be a part of the solution not a part of the problem. These kids were probably groomed and whatever he was doing he brainwashed them to make ‘em think it was a game. Disturbing Manipulation and NOBODY at the school picked up on it.. For crying out loud the guy was there for decades. I’m guessing this is not much different than Penn State and if you watch the news…there really is a big problem across the country. Where were his superiors. I read in an updated report that these kids were in the ‘poor’ area and couldn’t speak english. This tells you something as well. Perhaps the parents were also afraid to say something IF they knew anything. These animals prey on the most vulnerable and exploit weaknesses. It happens with abusers/victims all the time. It is no surprise to me the kids didn’t report it.

To HS Teacher Good Mom

January 31st, 2012
7:13 pm

HS Teacher you maon and groan that teachers are being unfairly picked on by the media because they reported tihis strory. You feel that teachers are unfairly sought out for ridicule.

Oh please.

Child abuse is big news everywhere because it strikes at the heart of almost all Americans. Almost all adults have children so they are invested in this type of story and of course humans everywhere are interested because the victims are so helpless.

Football is darn near a religion in our society and when a football coach molested kids it was “plastered” everywhere in the news. When a priest molests children it is big news. WHen a parent abuses a child it makes the news. Abuse of children is big news period.

The fact that you want this heinous crime covered up says a great deal about you. You expect people to give you a get out of the news media free card because you are a teacher? You want the crime to be covered up. You sound just like a teacher in the CRCT cheating scandal. Just deny and hide.

Your comments are way off base. The media does everyone a service by reporting and highlighting crime. We as a community need toknow where the dangers are and we are very fortunate that the photo mat clerk reported seeing the nasty pictures of abused children.

You need a reality check, HS Teacher. A criminal is a criminal, regardless of their profession and a criminal who preys on the most vulnerable members of our society deserves a stronger punishment. Let’s throw this teacher in the jail and lock him or her away for good.

teacher&mom

January 31st, 2012
7:14 pm

How does this happen? How can someone take the time to tape a child’s mouth, abuse them, and take pictures without anyone in the building being suspicious?

Obviously he wasn’t the least bit concerned about an administrator, janitor, or fellow teacher stepping into his classroom. One has to wonder what the heck is going on at this school that someone can so openly abuse children.

IT's Semen, not just cockroaches

January 31st, 2012
7:21 pm

Maureen, why didn’t you report the full extent of the abuse? These children weren’t just gagged and had cockroaches on their face..

THEY WERE FED SEMEN! That’s right the pervert fed the kids ejaculate and now the children may have a sexually transmitted disease. This monster deserves to DIE.


Other pictures depicted girls with what appears to be a spoon up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest a clear-white liquid.

Sheriff’s Lt. Carlos Marquez of the Special Victims Bureau said it was determined the children were given semen on a spoon or on a cookie. A blue plastic spoon and container found in trash in Berndt’s classroom tested positive for semen, the sheriff’s statement said.

None of the photos showed the students actually eating the semen, but Marquez said the children reported they didn’t like the taste.

Authorities are recommending the children be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Read more: http://www.kcra.com/news/30340657/detail.html#ixzz1l5Kd1MVx

Fred

January 31st, 2012
7:31 pm

I clicked the link to read the story as reported, but was unwilling to finish it after “Other pictures depicted girls with what appears to be a spoon up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest a clear-white liquid” and the sentence that followed that one………………….

Hanging isn’t good enough……..

Spedteacher

January 31st, 2012
7:33 pm

Good Mom: I understand that this is a horrible crime against children, made worse by the abuser’s position of power. I also understand HS teacher’s comment about only the bad news of education being reported. Can’t the good that schools and the teachers are doing also be reported?

Eric

January 31st, 2012
7:53 pm

I don’t believe this story, and I think bringing it up to the public is stirring up paranoia once again. But if it is true, one incident doesn’t mean it’s happening enough to warrant video and cell phones in the room. Maureen, you’re succession of articles in the past several years has lead to a huge mistrust of teachers and public schools. Would you please move on to some other topic?

Really Amazed

January 31st, 2012
8:11 pm

WOW!!!! Gotta love public run gov’t schools!!! True learning at it’s best!!!!!

Anonmom

January 31st, 2012
8:12 pm

It’s hard to believe but there is probably something there if the police had enough to have a search warrant and found the photos in his house…. they needed probable cause to get the warrant and it’s a weird thing to go public with or to make up if they didn’t really find the photos…. I know people who you would never have believed had chidl porn on their computers and police found porn in similar searchers on the computers. One lesson is you shouldn’t be keeping such photos on your pc.

Gabrielle

January 31st, 2012
8:18 pm

You fail to remember that teachers are often looked up to by the students. For example, can’t we ask the same of the children abused by priests? Did they report it? No. Now that they are grown men they are coming forth. Do not underestimate the power of a teacher over children

catlady

January 31st, 2012
8:20 pm

I can give you 4 cases of kids going home and telling lies about teachers; the adults cleared their names eventually but never recovered–the students were never punished.

Do awful things happen sometimes at school? Yes, for sure. Do awful things happen at home? Yes, quite a bit. You should see the horror that teachers see on a frequent basis, perpetrated by people who “love” the children.

catlady

January 31st, 2012
8:23 pm

IF the person is truly responsible for this behavior, he should be as fully punished as is possible. If not, the same effort should be made to correct the information, and those guilty of lying should be punished severely.

Maureen Downey

January 31st, 2012
9:27 pm

@It’s, I put links to the full stories in the posts with the assumption that people will read the full story. The link is there to the story. You don’t need to add one. It’s all there.
Maureen

Captain Obvious

January 31st, 2012
9:32 pm

More happy teacher stories from the Ida Tarbell of educational reporting!

Dr. Pangloss

January 31st, 2012
10:04 pm

In the late 80s and early 90s we had a spate of day-care center abuse hysteria and Satanic ritual abuse hysteria. Some people’s careers were ruined even though some of the testimony was so fantastic that it couldn’t possibly be true. This might or might not turn out to be a recurrence of the same thing. These days a photograph may prove that something happened, or it may prove that somebody has Photoshop.

Dr. Pangloss

January 31st, 2012
10:07 pm

Really Amazed
January 31st, 2012
8:11 pm

WOW!!!! Gotta love public run gov’t schools!!! True learning at it’s best!!!!!
——————
Well, I learned the difference between “it’s” and “its” in a public school.

I don’t think there’s any such thing as a public-run school.

Fred

January 31st, 2012
11:43 pm

catlady

January 31st, 2012
8:23 pm

IF the person is truly responsible for this behavior, he should be as fully punished as is possible. If not, the same effort should be made to correct the information, and those guilty of lying should be punished severely.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Really? Did you REALLY read the article and then type the BS I just read under your handle? You read the part where there are photo’s of little girls drinking “white milky substances” from spoons and then read the part where they said they found spoons with traces of this man’s semen on them? I mean did you READ THIS STUFF DAMMIT?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I really don’t like you catlady. I feel sorry for your children. I feel sorry for the children who suffer under your teaching. I feel sorry for anyone who comes in daily contact with you. I feel sorry for myself for the taint I bear for reading anything you have ever posted. There is something sick and twisted about you in my most honest opinion. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, why you hate people so much, especially children, but I don;t think you should have any contact with them and think it’s a travesty that you are a teacher.

I’ve read the crap you post for a long time, but you went way far over the line this time. It’s a shame blog posts are anonymous sometimes because I think you are definitely someone who needs to be looked at. If you EVER had any compassion it burned out years ago and you should have quit teaching. I shudder to think how many children you have harmed. I’ll bet you are a Baptist aren’t you?

Fred

January 31st, 2012
11:47 pm

Sorry Maureen. Ban me if you must, but that cold heartless woman crossed over MY line. I have read her evil posts for a while but by god THAT ONE was just too damn much.

And she teaches your children……………..

Fred

January 31st, 2012
11:49 pm

catlady

January 31st, 2012
8:20 pm

I can give you 4 cases of kids going home and telling lies about teachers; the adults cleared their names eventually but never recovered–the students were never punished.

Do awful things happen sometimes at school? Yes, for sure. Do awful things happen at home? Yes, quite a bit. You should see the horror that teachers see on a frequent basis, perpetrated by people who “love” the children.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Based upon your posts, I’m sure you are an EXPERT on the horrors visited upon children by those who “love them.”

Like I said before...

February 1st, 2012
12:26 am

ROFL@ Fred. “I bet you’re a Baptist, aren’t you?” LOL

Like I said before...

February 1st, 2012
12:31 am

if this teacher is taken out back and shot, there is not a jury in America that will convict.

Wow catlady

February 1st, 2012
2:16 am

I find myself in an awkward position agreeing with Fred. I usually love your posts. I don’t think you read the article either.

Mason Hicks

February 1st, 2012
2:44 am

@Dr Pangloss “These days a photograph may prove that something happened, or it may prove that somebody has Photoshop.”

These photos were discovered in a FILM processing center. Remember those? I use Photoshop everyday at work… It works with DIGITAL imaging… Not with film. One can play tricks with film images; with lighting and exposure effects which would change the appearance of the photo, but not nearly to the extent of changing the subject matter. Even there, the vast majority of film image manipulation is required to be done in the darkroom… This was film right out of the camera…

The truth is that if this guy had just been with the digital age, we still wouldn’t know this was going on…

To SPedteacher from Good Mom

February 1st, 2012
3:34 am

You ask ” Can’t the good that schools and the teachers are doing also be reported?”

Of course. It aleady is. Maureen just ran a piece about the teacher who drove 70 miles a day to buy books for kids that helped to create a judge.

…but that is not what you really mean. What you reallhy mean is that you don’t want anyone posting bad information about a teacher.

The teaching profession is like most — there is bad and good in all professions but what makes this a particularly heinous crime is that the pervert was entrusted to protect the children. Just like a priest, the community and our larger society give up the most precious thing on planet earth to teachers and priests. We hire you to take care of our children so it is particularly outrageous when one of you does such harm. Just like a priest.

If this crime were committed by a homeless drug addict we would still be outraged becaues the victimes are the most helpless.

So for anyone to whiiiiinnnnnnneeeee that poooooor teadhers are being picked on again (dear lord, catlady you make me puke) is to make everyone give up on you.

FOr once, just get over yourselves and admit all teachers are not saints. Stand with the community in their fight against all those who would harm children.