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Judge sets bail at $23 million for elementary school teacher accused of lewd acts on children

Mark Berndt
Police booking photo released by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department shows former Los Angeles teacher Mark Berndt, 61 AP Photo/ Los Angeles Sheriff's Department

(CBS) LOS ANGELES - A former elementary school teacher's arraignment was put off, and a judge raised his bail to $23 million Wednesday. The ex-teacher faces charges of committing lewd acts against dozens of children between 2008 and 2010.

CBS Los Angeles reports 61-year-old Mark Berndt is accused of taking photos of students who were bound and gagged in his classroom. Some photos picture cockroaches being placed on students' faces, while others show them being spoon fed a milky white substance that tested positive for the teacher's DNA.

Berndt faces 23 counts of committing a lewd act on a child involving 23 children, but police say it is likely there are more victims.

The allegations surfaced after a photo processing technician saw the photos Berndt had printed in January of last year. Commercial film developers are obligated by law to report child pornography to police.

Police found nearly 300 photos and investigators used DNA to connect Berndt to the victims. They found spoons in the teacher's trash similar to the photos, and they reportedly contained Berndt's bodily fluid.

Berndt, who had taught at the school for more than 30 years, was arrested at his home in Torrance on Monday.

Students who were allegedly victimized by Berndt have been given "psychological support" and guidance counseling over the course of the last year, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said.

Deasy confirmed that there was overwhelming evidence to justify terminating the teacher.

Berndt is being held in solitary confinement on $2.3 million bail.

More on Crimesider:January 31, 2012 - Bondage, abuse photos of school kids lead to firing, arrest of So. Calif. teacher, report says

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