An LA court has mandated the school district to pay victims $140 million settlement in a case involving a third-grade teacher who blindfolded his students and forced them to eat cookies made with his semen.
Mark Berndt, 63, had been a teacher with the L.A. Unified School District for 30 years when his behavior was finally exposed in 2012. A 19-year-old photo pharmacy clerk called police after the teacher brought in "bondage-style photos" of blindfolded kids.
AP reports that investigators uncovered a history of "odd behavior" going back to the beginning of Berndt's teaching career in the early '80s, including a cache of nearly 800 photos showing blindfolded children eating the semen cookies, eating semen from a spoon, and letting roaches crawl on them.
There were dozens of complaints from victims over the years that were ignored by the district, according to lawyers for the 81 child victims.
“There were so many things along the way that were signs,” [plaintiffs’ lawyer John] Manly said, including photographs a parent brought to the head of the school in 2008 of a child eating a cookie covered in white slime.
“This is wrong, do something about it or I’m going to call the police,” the parent demanded, Manly said. “The principal said, ‘Don’t call the police.'”
Because many of the school’s students “come from poor Hispanic homes” and their parents “feared deportation,” they listened to the principal.
The entire ordeal involves a total of about 150 children who were pupils of Berndt from 2005 onward, a spokesman for the district said.
Berndt has already pleaded no contest last November to charges of lewd conduct and is currently serving a 25-year-prison sentence.