LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Tuesday it has released more than $27 million to settle the dozens of claims of sexual abuse on behalf of students at Miramonte Elementary School.
The claims stem from allegations of sexual abuse at the school by former third grade teacher Mark Berndt. The 61-year-old was arrested in January 2012 and criminally charged with molesting 23 students between the ages of 7 and 10-years-old over a five-year period at the school.
Allegations against him include feeding some of the students his own semen in a bizarre game.
The alleged abuses took place from 2002 to 2011, but the lawsuits filed on behalf of the students allege LAUSD officials were aware of his sexual misconduct more than a decade earlier.
The settlements, first announced in March, will resolve 58 claims of sexual abuse by students at the elementary school, according to the LAUSD. The district said a total of 63 cases stemming from the alleged abuse at Miramonte have now been settled.
"Resolving these cases in a way that provides for future health and educational needs was our top priority," said David Holmquist, attorney for the LAUSD. "We are glad that these funds will go directly to students, as opposed to being consumed by costly and lengthy litigation."
In June, LAUSD proposed settlement offers of roughly $17 million to 40 other students and their families surrounding Berndt's alleged abuse. Attorneys for the families criticized the offer, which would give a total of $425,000 per student, and responded by submitting a list of demands to the district for policy changes to better protect children and root out abusive teachers.
District officials said Monday they remained committed to resolving the remaining 40 cases. The $17 million offer expired in July.
The $27 million awarded Tuesday amounts to an estimated $465,000 per child for each of the 58 claimants.
Funds for the settlements come from the LAUSD's general fund, and officials said Monday they are working with the LAUSD's insurers to cover the cost.
Berndt pleaded not guilty in February 2012 and is still awaiting trial.
Martin Springer, a second former Miramonte teacher, is also awaiting trial on three felony counts of lewd acts with a child.
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