Local attorney Greg Owen is representing nine children allegedly victimized by Mark Berndt, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School who has been accused of committing lewd acts against his students.
“My belief is there are hundreds who have been victimized,” said Owen, who is representing children ranging from 8 to 15 years old.
Owen explained that Berndt was involved in “family grooming,” getting to know the parents and coming over to family homes for birthday parties and Christmas.
“So, the family would never imagine that this man who’s such a good friend and almost part of their family would be doing something like this to their children,” explained Owen.
Included in the evidence Owen has collected against Berndt are photographs of the children, in some cases tied up, being fed cookies covered with semen. The photographs were sometimes sent home with the children and “the families would sometimes frame that and set it in the living room,” added Owen.
Martin Springer, another Miramonte teacher been accused of abusing students, may also have victimized one of Owen’s clients.
Owen said that he believes many victims are not coming forward because they are illegal immigrants and fear deportation.
“The Sheriff’s committee has come out publicly and stated that they want everyone to come forward and make a complaint and their immigration status will not be injured and they will not deport anybody,” Owen said, emphasizing the importance of any victims coming forward.
When asked about Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy’s decision to remove all of the Miramonte Elementary School’s teachers, Owen said, “I think it was absolutely the right move.”
Owen added that it was a necessary action by the school district to protect itself from litigation and to protect the children.
“I agree that the families should be sad and upset because the vast majority of those teachers were probably wonderful teachers who have dedicated their lives to a profession where they get paid very little and have a huge responsibility,” Owen conceded.
Owen, of the law firm of Owen, Patterson, and Owen, focuses on personal injury law and has recently been involved in a similar case regarding a 17-year-old special needs student who was victimized by her aid from the Acton school district.