The entire staff of Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles will be replaced after two teachers were arrested for sexual abuse, authorities say.
More than 120 staff, 88 teachers and 40 support staff, will be removed and interviewed. No other staff are currently under suspicion.
The move comes after three dozen parents and supporters protested in front of the main doors of the school earlier in the day, some carrying a banner that read: “We the parents demand our children be protected from lewd teacher acts.”
Mark Berndt, 61, and Martin Springer, 49, were arrested last week on separate allegations of child sexual abuse.
Teacher Mark Berndt was charged with carrying out lewd acts on 23 children who were aged six to 10, between 2005 and 2010.
Teacher Martin Springer was arrested on Friday – just four days later – on suspicion of fondling two girls in his classroom.
More than one-quarter of the school’s students stayed at home on Monday.
Those who did attend walked into the school past TV cameras and a demonstration by angry parents.
The school will remain closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and an entirely new staff will start on Thursday – accompanied by a social worker in each classroom.
Existing staff will continued to be paid and school officials say many will eventually return to work.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy announced the move in a meeting with parents at a nearby high school.
John Deasy told parents he was not worried about the impact on the school’s budget.
“I cannot have another student tell me he is afraid,” he said.
“Miramonte staff members were also confused and upset by events at the school,” he said.
Both the alleged abusers, Mark Berndt and Martin Springer, were long-term employees.
“They taught in this school for years and [staff] assumed everyone else was doing good things,” John Deasy said.
Teaching union United Teachers Los Angeles said in a statement that they had met with teachers at Miramonte.
“We support a thorough, vigorous and fair investigation of all allegations,” the statement said.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that any and all allegations are thoughtfully and carefully investigated.”
However, some parents at the school told the Los Angeles Times they were alarmed that students had reportedly complained about Mark Berndt over the past two decades.
“My trust level is at zero,” said Cassini Quarles, a parent said.
Maria Jimenez told the Associated Press that the school’s parents are divided over the decision.
“Some are in favour,” she said. “Others are against it because they did this without advising us or consulting us.”
Police said a photo developer raised the alarm after being handed about 40 pictures of blindfolded children. In some of the photos, the accused had his arm around the children or was covering their mouth with his hand. Some had their mouths taped shut.
Tests on a spoon and container found in the accused’s classroom tested positive for semen, the sheriff’s department said.
Both teachers were long-serving classroom instructors.
Mark Berndt, a third-grade teacher, had taught for more than 30 years. He is being held on $2.3 million bail.
A teacher at Miramonte since the beginning of his career in 1986, Martin Springer taught second-grade. He is being held on $2 million bail.