Second teacher in LA school abuse case arrested
Miramonte Elementary School is seen Jan. 31, 2012, in Los Angeles. / AP Photo
Updated at 7:20 p.m. ET
LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County authorities say a second teacher removed from an elementary school was arrested for investigation of lewd acts upon two girls who were approximately 7 and 8 years old.
Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker says 49-year-old Martin Springer was arrested Friday, less than a week after a 30-year teacher at Miramonte Elementary School was charged with lewd acts involving 23 children. There is no known connection between the two cases. Parker is being held on $2 million bail.
Miramonte is in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest with some 650,000 students and more than 800 schools.
Parker said the victims in the second case were about 7 and 8 years old and were fondled once each in a classroom at Miramonte Elementary School during the past three years.
Detectives interviewed Springer and the alleged victims on Thursday and had him under surveillance. He was arrested Friday as he exited a school district building in South Los Angeles, Parker said.
Detectives anticipate that more victims might come forward, he said.
A phone message left at Springer's home was not immediately returned.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy confirmed that the district plans to fire Springer next week.
"We are prepared to fire him next week and we'll do that at the next board meeting for inappropriate conduct and inappropriately touching students," the superintendent told KTTV.
Earlier today Deasy confirmed that a teacher was removed from classes Thursday morning after he received information about "possible inappropriate behavior."
Child-abuse investigators were informed by the district late Thursday night, he said, declining to provide details.
"This just came to our attention yesterday," Deasy said. "The information was new. It's not, like, something we dug up."
At that time, he cautiously spoke about Spring, saying that he was suspended "out of an abundance of caution" rather than because of any physical evidence.
In a related development, a lawyer filed a claim against the district stating that he intended to file a lawsuit alleging an unidentified girl ate a sugar cookie laced with the semen of the first teacher arrested, Mark Berndt.
Earlier this week, Berndt, who worked at the school for 32 years, was charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010. He remains jailed on $23 million bail and could face life in prison if convicted.
Lawyer Raymond Boucher, whose Beverly Hills firm specializes in sexual abuse lawsuits against school districts, religious institutions and hospitals, said the legal claim of behalf of "Jane Doe 1" alleges the district did not take adequate steps to prevent Berndt from repeatedly abusing children after officials received complaints about him.
School was in session Friday at Miramonte. After news broke about the second teacher, several parents took their children out of school.
Ida Santana said her sister called her and told her to pick up her nephew.
"It's hard to leave our kids here," Santana said. "We can't trust the teachers no more. Now there's another teacher."
Several other parents could be seen walking youngsters away from the school.
Santana said the family is unsure where the boy will be going to school from now on.
The development involving the second teacher was made public a day after authorities acknowledged that 18 years ago a 10-year-old girl claimed Berndt tried to fondle her.
Prosecutors declined to file to charges against Berndt in the 1993 report, saying they didn't have enough evidence.
The details of that case and other claims by two former students about strange behavior by Berndt surfaced just three days after his arrest.
The allegations also raised further questions about why he wasn't disciplined by school officials, who have been lambasted by some parents for waiting a year to reveal Berndt was suspected of taking bondage-style photographs of children in his class.
Only parents of children identified as victims were told by authorities about the most recent investigation.
School officials and investigators said proper procedures were followed to investigate and build a case against the teacher.
The incident involving the 10-year-old girl occurred in September 1993 but wasn't reported by her mother to officials at Miramonte until the following January, after her daughter had seen an "Oprah" show about inappropriate touching, Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott said Thursday.
The girl claimed Berndt reached toward her genitals during class and she pushed his hand away, Scott said.
School officials notified the sheriff's department, which submitted evidence to prosecutors. They opted not to file a charge of committing a lewd act on a minor under the age of 14. Berndt was never arrested.
"Based on what I read, it was a thorough and complete investigation," said Scott, who noted the investigator who handled the case has retired.
Sandi Gibbons, a district attorney spokeswoman, said in a statement the case was rejected because there was insufficient evidence to prove a crime had occurred. The statement did not elaborate.
Berndt denied the allegation at the time.
Earlier, two women who said they were former students of Berndt told the Los Angeles Times that complaints were made about his odd behavior as far back as 1990.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy told the newspaper he was struggling to determine how the alleged behavior went undetected for so long.
"How do I make sense out of the fact that this took place over a number of years and no one seemed to know about that?" Deasy asked. "I'm definitely trying to understand how someone could not have known."
Using a cheap camera, Berndt is suspected of snapping nearly 400 photographs of Miramonte students, some with a giant Madagascar cockroach from a classroom terrarium on their faces.
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