Why Miramonte Was the Perfect Stalking Ground

Mark Berndt, Martin Springer could have easily preyed on disadvantaged kids

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 10, 2012 7:22 AM CST

(Newser) – As Martin Springer, one of the teachers charged in a Los Angeles school sex abuse scandal, was released on bail today, USA Today takes a look at Miramonte Elementary and why it may have been the perfect place for an abuser to prey on vulnerable, disadvantaged children. The school's 1,400 students come mainly from impoverished Latino homes, and some of their parents are illegal immigrants—meaning they are hesitant to approach authorities for fear of being deported. And because many of the parents don't speak English, they are unlikely to be involved with their children's school.

"You have lots of the very poor who don't even know what their rights are," says a former state senator who once represented the area. "You have the undercurrent of immigration, undercurrent of poverty. Miramonte is not Malibu. It's a perfect recipe for a predator." Indeed, a former teacher's aide from the school was imprisoned in 2004 for sexually abusing three kindergartners. Says the father of one alleged victim, "The school is almost 100% Latino. It's because of that they discriminate against us. We are poor people." Now, investigators are looking into a possible "culture of silence" among adults at the school, the superintendent has said, and experts agree that could be the case.

In this undated police booking photo released by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department shows former Los Angeles teacher Mark Berndt, 61.
In this undated police booking photo released by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department shows former Los Angeles teacher Mark Berndt, 61.   (Associated Press)
This image provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department shows Martin B. Springer, 49.
This image provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department shows Martin B. Springer, 49.   (AP Photo/Los Angeles County Sheriff, File)
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