Statement and Fact Sheet by the Los Angeles Unified School District Regarding Settlement of Miramonte Cases

Nov. 21, 2014

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced a settlement today in civil cases stemming from the actions of a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School. The school district resolved the remaining Miramonte litigation at issue for a total of $139,250,000.

The following is a statement from Ramon C. Cortines, superintendent, regarding the settlement:
“There is nothing more important to us than the safety of the students we serve. Our goal from the outset of these appalling revelations has been to spare the Miramonte community the anguish of a protracted trial, while at the same time being mindful of the financial consequences stemming from settlements. Given these circumstances, we believe we struck a balance between those objectives.

“Throughout this case, we have shared in the pain felt by these children, their families and the community. Each day, we are responsible for the safety of more than 600,000 students. There is a sacred trust put in us to protect the children we serve. While we know Mr. Berndt went to extreme lengths to hide his conduct, we know that our job protecting students is never done. While we are proud of the steps that we’ve taken to enhance student safety, the only way we can have the safest schools is through partnerships with parents and the community.”
The following is a statement from Dave Holmquist, general counsel, regarding the settlement:
“We appreciate the diligent work and respectful manner that our counsel handled this manner. Our priority has been to resolve these cases without the need for potentially painful litigation for these families. We know that these settlements will provide for the future needs of these students. We are glad that this will help close this chapter for these families. We remain committed to helping them continue the process of healing.”
# # #

Miramonte Elementary Civil Litigation Settlements
Background Information

In 2012, the school district shared in the shock and disgust upon learning of the misconduct committed by one of its teachers at Miramonte Elementary School. Even though the school district didn’t know about Mr. Berndt’s behavior, we have an obligation to protect the students we serve. We are truly sorry that these students had their trust violated by this sick individual.

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced a settlement that will resolve all of the Miramonte litigation at issue against the school district in this matter. The settlement will largely end current litigation that started following the arrest of the teacher in Jan. 2012.

From the onset of litigation, the school district has sought to resolve these cases without exposing the children involved to the potential pain of litigation. In April 2013, the school district announced resolution in nearly half of the cases.

Facts About Today’s Settlement:

·         A global amount of $139,250,000 has been agreed to by the school district and plaintiffs’ counsel involved in the litigation, which resolves the remaining Miramonte litigation at issue.

·         An independent process has been established with the court that will allow the judge to review each of the claims and assign the appropriate individual amount.

·         The school board extended itself and significant financial resources to resolve these cases because it allowed these students and families to avoid potentially painful litigation. Moreover, it is in the best interest of the school district’s financial future.

Facts About Past Settlements:

·         65 cases were settled during 2013 and 2014.

·         Through an early resolution process, which involved former Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso and Judge Peter Litchman, cases were evaluated and a settlement was reached.

·         In total, the settlement cost approximately $30 million.

Miramonte Today

Miramonte is a thriving community, which has come together to heal. The school continues to be a positive influence in the surrounding neighborhood and a desired place for parents to send their children. In the past several years, the school has achieved significant milestones, including:

·         Test scores rising year over year.

·         Attendance rates at all-time highs.

·         A committed faculty that has remained at the campus.

·         A new parent center was opened at the school, which will allow more parental involvement on campus.

·         Innovative new programs, like Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors that focuses on improving parental leadership and empowerment, is helping energize the community.

The School District Works Hard to Protect Students

Providing a safe learning environment for the more than 600,000 students served by the school district is a top priority. Our dedicated employees work hard every day to ensure that students receive a safe education that will help them achieve future success.

Student safety is an ongoing effort, which is never over. In the past few years, there have been numerous changes throughout the school district, which have enhanced student safety. Among those efforts are:

·         Adoption of a district-wide 72-hour parental notification policy for allegations of employee misconduct. The school district will now notify parents within that window, unless specifically directed otherwise by law enforcement.

·         Creation of the student safety investigation team, which is made up of former law enforcement officers and investigative specialist. This team is responsible for investigating the more complex issues of misconduct that occur in the school district.

·         Development of a data warehouse that has streamlined record maintenance and review.

·         Enhancing internal reporting structure for notification of alleged misconduct to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). This enhanced review process has allowed the school district to improve the flow of information so that reporting to the CTC is quicker than mandated.

·         Offering more specialized, local resources. Through the reorganization of the school district into Educational Service Centers, there are now more dedicated specialists at the local school sites to advise on misconduct issues and improve student safety.

·         Leading a statewide legislative effort to eliminate the complicated and lengthy teacher dismissal appeals process to allow school districts to facilitate teacher terminations in cases of sexual misconduct.

Contact: Sean Rossall (310) 210-7586