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LA judge OKs $30 million settlement

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POSTED August 15, 2013 8:18 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge approved settlements of lawsuits that claimed dozens of students were molested by former teachers at Miramonte Elementary School and the Los Angeles Unified School District has made the first of what may total $30 million in payouts.

Sixty-one settlements were approved Wednesday but dozens of additional suits against the Los Angeles Unified School District remain unresolved, KNBC-TV reported.

Families of more than 60 students contended that the children were molested by former teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer. Berndt was arrested in January 2012. Prosecutors contend that for five years he engaged in lewd behavior with children in his third-grade classroom, including playing bizarre "tasting games" in which he fed them semen-laced cookies.

Another former teacher, Martin Springer, is charged with lewd acts on a child in a case involving a second-grader allegedly fondled in class in 2009.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

The school district has estimated that the lawsuit settlements will cost around $30 million, or about $470,000 per student.

Some families have agreed to the settlements and the district already has begun a payout involving two students. Some money will cover therapy and medical bills and the rest will be put aside until the children become adults.

"There are no winners," said attorney Ricardo Perez, who represented the two preteen girls. "My clients feel that they can now put this chapter behind them. They can try to move on with their lives."

However, many others have refused to settle.

"We will wait for the justice of the jury," Luis Carrillo said. The attorney said all but one of his 23 clients had declined to accept the offer.

"Our biggest focus is to resolve these cases in a way that respects the children's health and educational needs," district spokesman Sean Rossall told the Daily News of Los Angeles (http://bit.ly/14cmnSx). "We're glad to have resolved and started funding these settlements and hope to resolve the rest."

The district had been counting on insurance to cover the settlements but one carrier has sued to avoid payment. Rossall said the district now will cover the cost itself and hopes to obtain reimbursement.

 

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