The years-long litigation involving a Los Angeles third-grade teacher who blindfolded his students and forced them to eat cookies made with his semen ended last month with a $140 million settlement between the school district and the victims.
Mark Berndt, 63, had been a teacher with the L.A. Unified School District for 30 years when his behavior was finally exposed in 2012. A 19-year-old photo pharmacy clerk called police after the teacher brought in "bondage-style photos" of blindfolded kids, the AP reports.
Investigators uncovered a history of "odd behavior" going back to the beginning of Berndt's teaching career in the early '80s, including a cache of nearly 800 photos showing blindfolded children eating the semen cookies, eating semen from a spoon, and letting roaches crawl on them.
Lawyers for the 81 child victims claimed the district ignored more a dozen incidents, including accusations that Berndt masturbated in front of students in the early '90s.
"There were so many things along the way that were signs," [plaintiffs' lawyer John] Manly said, including photographs a parent brought to the head of the school in 2008 of a child eating a cookie covered in white slime.
"This is wrong, do something about it or I'm going to call the police," the parent demanded, Manly said. "The principal said, 'Don't call the police.'"
They didn't, largely because most of the school's students "come from poor Hispanic homes" and their parents "feared deportation."
Berndt pleaded no contest last November to charges of lewd conduct, and is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence. According to the AP, he wasn't fired immediately after his arrest, so he technically retired from teaching with pension.
A former judge has been assigned to divvy up the $140 million to the children's families based on the extent of the trauma the teacher caused them, which reportedly ranges from "doing fine" to "suicidal."
[Photo: L.A. County Sheriffs]