Second Teacher Removed from L.A. School in Lewd Bondage Probe

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A second teacher has been removed from a classroom at Los Angeles’ Miramonte Elementary School, where another teacher has been charged with 23 felony counts of lewd acts on pupils, authorities said Friday.

The second teacher is under investigation, but hasn’t been charged or arrested, authorities said.

“We can confirm that a second teacher has been removed from the classroom by LAUSD,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said, referring to Los Angeles Unified School District, the city’s public system.

“The L.A. County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau is investigating, but because it’s an open investigation, I can’t say anything more,” Whitmore added.

When the department went public with the first case, he said, “we anticipated lots of information and that’s what we’re getting. Sheriff (Lee) Baca is dedicating necessary resources to vet out all the information. It’s important that trained investigators vet it out, and if it’s real, we will take appropriate action.”

Whitmore declined to state the teacher’s gender, when the teacher was removed or where that teacher is now.

The Los Angeles public school system was rocked this week when teacher Mark Berndt, 61, was accused of taking bondage photos of more than two dozen students in his classroom, including some showing suspected semen-filled spoons at the children’s mouths, authorities said.

Berndt, a 30-year teaching veteran, is now being held on $23 million bail, set at $1 million for each of the 23 counts he faces of lewd acts on a child.

The probe began in October 2010, when a CVS drugstore photo technician in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County told the Redondo Police department about finding disturbing images of blindfolded children in a processing order, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Scott.

The case was turned over to the sheriff’s office, and after an initial investigation, investigators notified school authorities, who removed Berndt from his classroom in January 2011.

About 400 photographs collected by investigators show children blindfolded, with tape over their mouths, Scott said. At least 23 children in the images have been identified, while another 10 are unidentified, he said.

Some photos show female students with “what appeared to be a blue plastic spoon, filled with an unknown clear/white liquid substance, up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest the substance,” authorities said.

Scott said a search of Berndt’s classroom included a blue spoon like the one in the pictures.

The spoon and small container recovered from the classroom were sent to a criminal laboratory for DNA testing. It took seven months for investigators to positively identify the sample as semen, Scott said, and authorities also got a sample of Berndt’s DNA — he declined to reveal how.

“It took us another six to seven months to process Berndt’s DNA and match it with the classroom DNA sample that tested positive for semen,” he said.

Processing the DNA, identifying the children in the photos and conducting in-depth interviews with potential victims was time consuming, Scott said in response to criticism over the year that passed before Berndt was arrested.

“We always had our eyes on him and there was never a chance he would get away from us,” Scott said.

The young students “didn’t realize they were victimized,” Scott said. “They thought they were being blindfolded and gagged as a game.”

Berndt’s public defender has not spoken to reporters about the case, which is set for arraignment on February 21.

(Michael Martinez and Stella Chan, CNN’s Alan Duke and Stan Wilson contributed to this story)

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