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South L.A. Elementary Teacher Accused of Performing Bondage Acts on Students Could Face Life in Prison

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Photo of Mark Berndt courtesy of L.A. Sheriff's Department
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A man who is accused of blindfolding his students, putting hissing cockroaches on their faces and spoonfeeding them his own semen appeared in court today. His arraignment was delayed until February 21, and his bail was raised from $2.3 million to $23 million.Mark Berndt, 61, is being charged with committing lewd acts involving 23 boys and girls, ages 6 to 10, between 2008 and 2010. He could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted, according to the Associated Press.

It took an entire year after the discovery of the photos that sound pretty damning and the discovery of the semen-laced spoon in Berndt's classroom to arrest him. This seems especially worrisome given the nature of the acts—and the fact that after his firing a neighbor said Berndt used to go to the pier at Redondo Beach to gawk at young girls. About a month ago a neighbor told the Los Angeles Times that he saw Berndt go on a bike ride with a young girl that seemed to be his student.

Berndt told the neighbor, “Don’t tell my sister I was with this young girl."

Many parents are feeling left in the dark about the lag time between the discovery of the photos and public notification of what happened.

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"My concern is why, if the principal knew this in advance, why didn't he inform us?" Gloria Polanco, the mother of a second- and a third-grader, told the Associated Press. "How long has he been doing this?"