Mark Berndt, a 61-year-old Los Angeles elementary school teacher, who has taught at the Miramonte Elementary School since 1979, and lives near a school and two parks, has been arrested on charges that he allegedly abused at least 23 students (ages 5 to 10) from 2005 through 2010. The allegations are harsh and date as far back as 1990, when one student complained he touched her inappropriately.
In my psychiatric opinion, the fact that Berndt, if guilty, was able to prey upon children for decades within the confines of a school should be irrefutable evidence that most children do not reliably report injurious behavior inflicted upon them by adults in positions of authority. There are undoubtedly more than just these 23 victims, and they stayed silent at least seven years, but probably many more than that.
Children want to believe that those who are in positions of authority have their best interests at heart. They are more likely to take blame than place it on others. And they simply lack the experience and intuition to label even grotesqueries as assaults (especially when someone like Berndt says they are games).
Children are also very vulnerable to scenarios created by abusive adults who tell them that divulging any “secrets” will lead others they love to be harmed.
We cannot rely on word-of-mouth or self-report on the part of children, or well-intentioned staff members to protect our children. I feel it’s time to consider psychological testing as a reasonable prerequisite to employment that involves contact with kids, and we should be considering as a society whether cameras belong in classrooms.
At minimum, it should be the case that a tremendously vigorous investigation of charges of sexual impropriety be accepted by all teachers, guidance counselors and camp counselors as the logical course of events when such accusations are leveled. If this had been done back in 1990, I believe dozens of kids would have been spared their current suffering.
Dr. Ablow is the author of "Inside the Mind of Casey Anthony." He is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. Dr. Ablow can be reached at email@example.com. His team of Life Coaches can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.