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South L.A. Teacher Accused of Performing Bondage Acts on Elementary School Students

Photo of Mark Berndt courtesy of L.A. Sheriff's Department
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It's not every day that you come across a story so vile that it's difficult to write, but here we go: a South L.A. elementary school teacher is being accused of binding and gagging students, covering them with roaches, and possibly feeding some of them his semen from a spoon. According to the L.A. Sheriff's Department, Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested at his home in Torrance on Monday after a nearly year-long investigation that began when a film processor turned over about 40 suspicious photos. The photos allegedly depicted kids who were blindfolded and had their mouths covered with tape in a school setting. In some of the photos, Berndt was posing with the children, either with his arm around them or his hand over their mouths.

Some of the pictures showed the victims, who were later found to be between the ages of 7 and 10, with live, Madagascar-like cockroaches crawling on their faces and mouths, and others had what looked like a blue spoon with a clear or whitish liquid held up to their mouths by Berndt. Later, a blue spoon and an empty container in Berndt's classroom trashcan were found to contain traces of his semen.

At Berndt's house, investigators found bondage videos with adults acting out scenes that mirrored the scenes in the photos, and a total of 390 pictures of kids. In all, investigators have identified 26 victims, and ten more victims have not yet been identified.

Berndt was a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School for over 30 years. He's being charged so far with 23 felonies, and held on $2.3 million bail.