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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A lawyer representing 15 former Miramonte Elementary School students accused Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy today of blocking a probe into the extent of sexual abuse at the school.
Brian Claypool said Deasy curtailed the probe of a blue-ribbon panel that included former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton without an explanation.
Earlier, Claypool called for a federal criminal investigation into the destruction of school district files containing abuse allegations.
Mark Henry Berndt, who taught at Miramonte for decades, pleaded no contest last year to 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children and was sentenced to 25 years behind bars.
The charges against Berndt involved 23 children who were 7 to 10 years old at the time of the crimes, which were committed between 2005 and 2011.
As part of his plea agreement, Berndt will also be required to register as a sex offender for life.
``The school district continues to seek outside funding for the commission's work,'' according to a LAUSD statement. ``In order to avoid any public perception that the school district might seek to control the work of the commission, we felt it critical that the commission be funded by outside sources.''
The district has paid about $30 million in settlements to 63 children and their families.
Sheriff's officials said the investigation of Berndt began when a film processor turned over more than 40 photographs of children in a classroom, with their eyes blindfolded and mouths covered in tape. Some of the pictures showed Berndt with his arm around the children or with his hand over their mouths, according to the Sheriff's Department.
A sheriff's sergeant said some of the photographs ``depicted girls with what appeared to be a blue plastic spoon, filled with an unknown clear/white liquid substance, up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest the substance.'' Some photos also showed children with a large roach on their faces, sheriff's officials said.
Sheriff's officials said detectives found a blue plastic spoon and an empty container in the trash in Berndt's classroom. Both items tested positive for semen, and DNA testing matched it to Berndt, according to the Sheriff's Department.