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Areceli Luisjuan, Former Miramonte Aide: Did She Write 'Love Letters' to 11-Year-Old, or Has Media Witch Hunt Gone Too Far?

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Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 12:30 PM

click to enlarge A photo of "Mrs. Luisjuan" on what appears to be her MySpace profile.
Every L.A. media outlet from KNX news radio to HuffPost has picked up the Los Angeles Times' latest Miramonte Elementary reveal this morning, in which one mother claims that a former teacher's aide at the beleaguered campus wrote numerous "love letters" to her 11-year-old son.

There are certainly some creepy bits:

The aide, identified in the story as Areceli Luisjuan, reportedly told the kid that she liked "when you put your arm around my shoulder" and "when you get close to me." She said that this gave her "the chills."

Her behavior was inarguably on the strange side. More excerpts from the three alleged letters, from the Times:

At the bottom, the writer penned the student's name four times, signed it "Sad Girl" and then added: "Read the letter and throw it away. I don't want your mom or brother to find it." ... The first item [the mother] found, in 2009, was a drawing of a crying woman that also was labeled "sad girl."

She noticed the drawing when it happened to tumble from its perch in her son's room. The fall also dislodged a cellphone number from a corner of the frame.

Inappropriate. But is this worth the amount of breath we're giving it?

Luisjuan, whose apparent MySpace profile shows that she's a married, middle-aged mom who recently moved from Los Angeles to the Moreno Valley, reportedly told the boy's mother that her love was "that of a grandmother for a grandson."

Whether or not that's BS, her behavior may be receiving an unfair portion of rage as an effect of much more egregious crimes.

The sick "sex game" that ex-Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt allegedly played with his students -- including blindfolds and semen-laced baked goods -- has turned into one of the most horrifying scandals in LAUSD history.

School administrators' lack of oversight, and a hush-hush culture among Berndt's fellow teachers, allowed warning signs to go unaddressed for years.

From L.A. Weekly's own archives:

"Alleged 'Sex Game' Teacher Mark Berndt Went Free for Over a Year: How Did LAUSD, L.A. Sheriff Let This Happen?"

"Ricardo Guevara: Meet Miramonte's Original Molester"

"Sex Abuse Scandal at Miramonte, Hamilton High Claims Jobs of Two Accused Teachers: Martin Springer and Vance Miller"

"Miramonte Lawsuit Claims a Victim Was Transferred From Class of One Alleged Molester to That of Another After Dad Complained"

In response to the hysteria, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy made the unprecedented decision, this week, to temporarily replace the entire teaching staff at Miramonte while they're interrogated about the sex abuse.

But that decision upset the tearstained kids at Miramonte almost as much as the news about Berndt, once a widely beloved fixture at the school.

Meanwhile, loads of new allegations have been pounced upon by L.A. outlets -- not just about the staff at Miramonte, but the district's Germain Elementary and Hamilton High as well.

KPCC radio explored one such accusation in "What is the media's role in the Miramonte investigation?" today:

Last night, KTLA evening news had an exclusive report into the alleged lewd conduct crimes against children at Miramonte Elementary School. The headline interview was with a 10-year-old girl, filmed in shadow and unnamed. She is one of the students who says she was subject to lewd acts by teacher Mark Berndt -- who faces 23 charges. The news last night was that the little girl said a third teacher would send the girl to Berndt's classroom to "get cookies during class."

KTLA characterized it as an accusation against a third teacher for helping Berndt. Attorney Brian Claypool was also interviewed for the story, during which he sobbed, "When I heard it today, it confirmed my worst suspicions. That teacher should be protecting [my client] from Mr. Berndt, and she helped him do it." It was a breathless report into a scandal that has rocked this school's community.

Why is all this coming out now? Is wildfire journalism fanning more fear and rumor than is necessary/healthy? Do we have another McMartin Preschool witch hunt on our hands? Or has the L.A. school district's egregious lack of accountability in Berndt's case just allowed a long, scary history of similar crimes against LAUSD children to come to light?

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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