From a Schoolteacher to a Convicted Pedophile – The Story of Mark Berndt


Mark Berndt left a dark legacy across the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Miramonte Elementary.

The former teacher, who led elementary classrooms from 1979 to 2011 at the school, was arrested in 2012 on 23 counts of lewd contact with a child. In 2013, he pled no contest to the charges and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Berndt’s arrest sent shockwaves through the primarily Spanish-speaking Miramonte community and the greater Los Angeles area. Not only did Berndt sexually abuse and harass generations of Miramonte students, but he forced them into playing “tasting games,” where blindfolded children would be fed spoonfuls of Berndt’s semen or snacks topped with Berndt’s semen. He also took exploitative photos of the children, usually with them blindfolded and with tape over their mouths. He also revealed his genitals and often masturbated in the dark classrooms during movies.

The scandal surrounding Berendt’s crimes opened a “Pandora’s box” of sexual abuse and cover-up across the district, including a law enforcement investigation that uncovered possibly hundreds of potential survivors.

Although Berndt’s crimes at Miramonte ended with his arrest and conviction, survivors are still coming forward. As they come to terms with the gravity of what happened to them and the devasting effect that the abuse had on their lives, many survivors are taking steps to hold LAUSD accountable.

“He robbed my daughters of their innocence and of their childhoods … My daughters were going to school to learn and to study, not to learn the kinds of things that were done to them.” – Mother of two of the survivors abused by Berndt.

Recent victims-friendly legislation, including California’s AB 218—the California Child Victims’ Act —shed new light on crimes against children in public school districts statewide. In addition to opening a window allowing survivors whose civil rights may have been expired, the law also extended the age for survivors to come forward and use the civil courts for justice. That means that many of Berndt’s survivors will have until age 40 to come forward and demand accountability.

We will probably never know the full extent of Berndt’s crimes, but as more and more survivors come forward and tell their stories, more and more of the truth will be exposed. At the same time, holding LAUSD accountable for covering up Berndt’s crimes will send a strong message: no child should be sexually abused in a public school.