Mark Berndt, the 63-year-old former teacher accused of horrific crimes against children at a South Los Angeles elementary school, is actually enjoying a $3,800-a-month-plus pension that you couldn't take away from him even if he was put away for life.
The revelation came last night after the California State Teachers' Retirement System issued the following statement:
The law provides that members' earned benefits cannot be taken away due to a criminal conviction …
In fact, Berndt has been arrested and charged with 23 counts of committing a lewd act on a child involving 23 children. Even if he's convicted (he's presumed innocent until proven otherwise), his cushy teachers' union contract provides nearly $3,900 a month.
That aspect of the story was broken last night by Fox 11 News (no story or video was available on its awesome site).
It was initially reported that Berndt, who allegedly took photos of children in gross, sexualized contexts, was fired in March after Sheriff's investigators had been looking at him dating back to a year ago.
But Fox 11 News reported he “retired” last summer, perhaps in a preemptive move, as Berndt was under the watchful eye of detectives.
The teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in South L.A. was found out after a photo lab technician turned him in for allegedly trying to develop horrific pictures of some of his third-graders.
LA Weekly's Simone Wilson describes the core of the allegations against him:
He allegedly let cockroaches crawl on their faces and spoon-fed them his own semen. Investigators say they confiscated over 400 photos of the in-class “sex game,” which they believe recurred over a two-year period (from 2008 to 2010).
He was being held in lieu of $2.3 million bail.
This story of how to extract an alleged problem teacher from the Los Angeles Unified School District will get people talking again about the almost-impossible-to-fire-educators rules in place for public school instructors.
Can you say “outrage”?
[Added]: Check out our story from 2010 about how “Grim Sleeper” serial murder suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr. also collected a healthy pension and had already grabbed more than $300,000 of taxpayer money via disability pension checks (he was a onetime city worker) by the time he was charged.