LA Unified has reached a settlement worth almost $140 million with 81 victims and their families from the sex abuse scandal involving former teacher Mark Berndt at Miramonte Elementary School.
The exact amount, $139,250,000, is the largest settlement involving LA Unified and possibly of any school district in the country.
“This puts to rest all of the litigation that is currently at issue,” General Counsel David Holmquist told LA School Report.
By reaching an agreement with the families, the district avoids going to trial in a series of civil cases. Jury selection on the latest had begun on Monday.
Superintendent Ramon Cortines said the deal “struck a balance” for the two sides.
“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,” Cortines said in a statement issued by the district.
Holmquist added, “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.”
About 65 families had accepted a separate $30 million settlement last year.
Berndt, 62, pleaded no contest last year to 23 counts of lewd conduct upon a child. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, which at the time the judge called “a life sentence” due to his advanced age.
The investigation into the veteran teacher was launched after a convenience store film processor came across a series of disturbing photos depicting blindfolded children whose hands and feet had been bound by tape.
An independent process had been established with the court, allowing the judge to review each of the claims and assign the appropriate individual amount.