I don’t think there’s really much more that can be said about the Miramonte Elementary School students-as-bondage-props fiasco that has flared up in the past couple of weeks all over the news here in Los Angeles. The story has gone national so I’m sure most people are aware of the vague but heinous circumstances. The allegations as they stand now are that Mark Berndt, a 61-year-old teacher at the predominantly Hispanic and Black LAUSD school a few miles south of downtown L.A., “posed” his students in bondage scenarios and took photos. Descriptions of the photos was comically gruesome, if you ask me. I’m sure the parents involved saw nothing comical. The photos first surfaced when a Redondo Beach CVS photo employee flagged them during development and called the police. The photos purportedly showed young children blindfolded with Madagascar cockroaches on their faces and spoons of semen poised near. The clincher was the feeding of cookies coated with semen to the children. Berndt was released, allowed to return to his job so he could resign, and unbelievably, collect a healthy government pension in his pseudo-retirement. Charges are forthcoming and the wave of legal threats facing the city is frightening. Taxpayers are advised to take out their checkbooks now and begin writing.
The story is lurid and depraved. Berndt, in retrospect, looks the part with his beady eyes and graying schoolteacher Mr. Rogers-style temples. The fact this happened in a lower income neighborhood makes me wonder if some of the victims’ parents are a tough crowd. Berndt best stay far away and locked deeply in a secret dungeon because I suspect if he was thrown to the wolves outside Miramonte School, there would be nothing left of him.
I’m confident We can agree Berndt is a sick, depraved individual, and this is why commenting on this matter is such a dead end. We can all cry about how he was allowed to collect his pension (the talk radio shows around here won’t let that one rest), but really, there isn’t much light to shed on this travesty. I think most people, though maybe sickened or disgusted at the practices and amusements of the BDSM subculture, are nevertheless content to leave such people alone as long as they remain behind closed doors. And don’t draw in their unsuspecting children to play roles! The thinking is, if they like watching women in high heels kill insects with their stilettos, more power to them. But somewhere along the way between here and Miramonte, the live-and-let-live permissiveness gets thrown out the window when you start feeding semen cookies to 9-year-old girls.
Regardless, Berndt is locked up in LA County jail with bail set at $23 million ($1 million per count) and is scheduled for arraignment on February 21. In all, 600 photos have been discovered. And news has now surfaced that a third “enabler” teacher may possibly have assisted in staffing his sick little harem. This is unsubstantiated as of now, but according to one 10-year-old victim who spoke anonymously, this teacher would send select students to see Berndt occasionally when he needed subjects. Police have not named the teacher, but this story is broadening by the day. Already a second teacher was arrested last week on charges he fondled two female students at the same school.
I wasn’t sure where the school was exactly, so I checked it out on Google Earth (my new best friend). The school is right in the center of Los Angeles city proper, in an area known as “Florence-Graham.” It is not quite in the “hood,” but not out of it either.
The school is in this strange commercial/industrial corridor which is a forgettable stretch of Los Angeles grid-lined neighborhoods ravaged by a middling blight that leaves the cities and neighborhoods remarkably indistinguishable and an anonymous brand of invisible lower economic status bland. There is nothing in these poor neighborhoods to remark upon. Even Watts or South LA, despite their urban jungle aura, still have a uniqueness and individuality. In their downtrodden ghettoness, they still are something to behold, and to fear. Thus their power. Better to be reviled than forgotten.
The corridor Miramonte School is in strikes me as featureless blight. I call it the Corridor Time Forgot.
The corridor, stretching from Miramonte School at the west end to Bell Gardens at the east, represents a parade of indistinct and poor neighborhoods which seem to blend into inconsequential adjacency in the shadows of the heavy manufacturing neighborhoods to the north, such as Vernon and Commerce, two primarily industrial towns with populations in the hundreds. Large trucks rumble up and down the streets of the Corridor Time Forgot and the air is filled with fumes. Very few national chains settle here. Empty lots abound. Weeds, ill-kept yards and poorly maintained city properties dot the neighborhood. The population is mostly Hispanic or Black. A lot of it is on the lower blue-collar economic rungs. The Corridor Time Forgot is also home to the city of Bell, a testament to Third World virulent corruption in our own backyard. I believe Berndt chose his victims wisely. There is an element of apathy and lack of involvement living in the Corridor Time Forgot that allows teachers and government officials to get away with the worst shenanigans for the long periods of time. Unchecked. In the Corridor Time Forgot, you can rape the city coffers, no one will notice.
It is the Corridor Time Forgot and so did everyone else. The people who live here are seemingly on their own as they carry no clout, good or bad. They aren’t a threat but they aren’t a gift. So they get nothing except crooked politicians and degenerate teachers.