If even just a few of the allegations against Mark Berndt, a 30-plus year veteran educator from Los Angeles accused of sexually molesting at least 23 kids, prove true, he will have earned himself the title as the worst of the worst of the nation's teachers. Wait, scratch that, if Berndt did even a few of the horrific things police have charged him with, he is a sick, twisted individual.
LAPD say they have some 40 photos of kids aged 7 through 10 who the 61-year-old Berndt bound and gagged. Some have cockroaches on their faces. And I wish I could say that was the worst of the allegations, but I can't. It sounds like a teacher, the very person parents teach their kids to trust implicitly, built a house of horrors right in the middle of a classroom.
On top of the gags and insects, police say spoons found in Berndt's classroom garbage can have tested positive for semen ... and some of the photos showed little girls with spoons held to their mouths containing a whitish liquid. I guess I don't have to mention that DNA has matched the semen on the spoons to the teacher's own DNA? Charges against Berndt now accuse him of committing lewd acts between 2008 and 2010. He's been fired by the school, and he's being held in jail on $2.3 million bail.
And yet, I can't imagine how a court can punish him enough to give these kids -- and their parents -- a feeling of justice or closure. What he's charged with doing strikes at the very core of what makes teachers so important to American society. We send our kids to school every day with the hope that the adults there care even half as much about our kids as we do. We depend on teachers to keep them safe. But even more than that, we expect these adults to respect the gift we're putting in their hands.
The job of a teacher is unlike any other in America because sending kids to school isn't like dropping a coat off at the dry cleaners and hoping the guy behind the counter doesn't burn a hole right through the wool. It's not like throwing the valet guy the keys to our new car. These are human beings. OK? You don't make an oopsie with them, and you most certainly do not use them to enact your sicko fantasies as if they were playtoys.
If Mark Berndt did what he is accused of, he doesn't deserve to call himself a teacher. I don't know that he deserves much of anything ...
Can you think of a punishment befitting the crime described here?