LAUSD Admits to Destroying Files on Child Sex Abuse
A spokesperson for LAUSD said officials destroyed the reports of child sexual abuse when district lawyers believed a section of the California Penal Code meant that school officials weren’t legally allowed to keep them.
LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) officials have admitted to purging critical reports that may have held key evidence in child sexual abuse cases within the district.
The latest revelation comes weeks after attorneys representing the parents of 15 children allegedly abused by former Miramonte Elementary School third-grade teacher Mark Berndt accused the district of destroying records and hiding the troubling pasts of other teachers suspected of child sexual abuse.
LAUSD representatives admitted to destroying the documents containing allegations of child sexual abuse dating back to 1988 in 2008, the Daily News reports.
A spokesperson for LAUSD, Sean Rossall, said the district destroyed the reports when district lawyers believed a section of the California Penal Code meant that school officials weren’t legally allowed to keep them, NBC Los Angeles reports.
Plaintiff’s lawyers have suggested that district officials were watching the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ sexual abuse scandal in 2008 when they decided to purge the sexual abuse files.
Attorneys for the victims also maintain that the state statute that district officials claim prompted them to destroy the reports prohibits only their public disclosure. Thus, LAUSD had every right and obligation to keep files on teachers who were continually accused of sexual misconduct.
On April 29, Superior Court Judge John Wiley Jr., issued a ruling that will open the door to unredacted information gathered during a two-year investigation of Berndt conducted by Los Angeles County Sheriff investigators.
The 512-page report revealed more abuse that Berndt, who was convicted of 23 counts of lewd conduct upon a child in November, allegedly inflicted on his students. Several allegations include exposing himself to students and enticing students to touch his private areas. The report also noted that Berndt had six DVDs containing 600 photos of students.
LA Unified has already paid out nearly $40 million in settlements of 63 child abuse cases involving Berndt and teacher Martin Springer, whose criminal charges were dropped last year.
The civil lawsuit, which involves another 71 children, against the district is expected to go to trial July 8.
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