The school system also ordered employees to take a refresher seminar this week on the reporting of abuse. Teachers were told to redouble their efforts to avoid any potentially troublesome situations: They should not help students with their clothes, and they should avoid physical displays of affection, such as hugs and pats on the buttocks. They should also pay close attention to the behavior of others — for example, if they see a teacher socializing alone with a student off campus.
L.A. Unified made changes in the way it handles allegations of sexual misconduct in the years after the arrest of former Assistant Principal Steve Thomas Rooney in 2008.
An investigation into alleged gun wielding initially resulted in Rooney's being pulled from his school. But he was later reassigned to a different school even after police alerted officials to a sexual relationship between Rooney and an underage student. Prosecutors didn't file charges. The district didn't follow up internally, and Rooney went on to molest students at his next assignment.
In the years since, "it's highly unlikely that a Hernandez case could happen," Deasy said. "We're aggressively [dismissing] far more people for performance, let alone criminal acts. Our screening and awareness procedures are much tighter."
But the tightened procedures didn't catch Berndt, even after some parents complained about his penchant for taking odd photos of students, which were presumed to be innocuous at the time.
The new attention to the Hernandez case has prompted a discussion about bringing him to justice.
Hernandez, who is a fugitive, is charged with indecent exposure and possession of child pornography. The second charge relates to a video he allegedly made of himself in which he molests a student in an Inglewood classroom. Police in Huntington Park, where students are served by L.A. Unified, discovered the video and said they believe that Hernandez is in the Mexican state of Jalisco.
As soon as authorities nail down his exact location, they will seek his extradition, said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Diana Martinez.
Times staff writers Richard Winton and Alan Zarembo contributed to this report.