LOS ANGELES – The entire staff at a U.S. school where two teachers were arrested on suspicion of lewd conduct will be removed while the school district investigates, the Los Angeles school superintendent said Monday night.
Superintendent John Deasy told parents and media that 88 teachers and 40 support staff at Miramonte Elementary School are being replaced because a full investigation of allegations is disruptive. They will be paid. Officials didn't know how long the investigation will take.
An entire staff has been trained to come into Miramonte's classrooms to take over teaching, and there will be a psychiatric social worker in every classroom.
"The last thing I'm worried about is a budget issue," Deasy said. "The No. 1 thing I'm worried about is the students."
The move follows the arrest of two Miramonte teachers. Mark Berndt was charged last week with committing lewd acts on 23 children, and Martin Springer was arrested Friday on suspicion of fondling two girls in his classroom.
More than a quarter of the students at Miramonte were absent from school Monday while parents demanded more protection at the school, with attendance reaching just 72 percent, according to figures from the Los Angeles Unified School District.
About three dozen parents and supporters protested in front of the main doors of the school earlier Monday, some carrying a banner that read, "We the parents demand our children be protected from lewd teacher acts."
The protest was an unusual event in the poor, overwhelmingly Latino neighborhood, where many parents and students struggle with the English language.
Berndt, who worked at the school for 32 years, was charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010. The acts cited by authorities include blindfolding children and feeding them his own semen in his classroom in what children were allegedly told was a tasting game.
Berndt, 61, remains jailed on $23 million bail and could face life in prison if convicted.
Springer, 49, was being held on $2 million bail. The school board is scheduled to discuss firing him in a closed-door meeting Tuesday.
Investigators said they know of no connection between the Miramonte cases. Berndt and Springer know each other and took their classes on at least two joint field trips in the past decade, according to the Los Angeles Times.