Ex-teacher held over pupil pictures
A former Los Angeles school teacher has been arrested after he allegedly gagged and made bondage photos of nearly two dozen children.
The children are aged seven to 10 and it is though the photographs were possibly taken inside a classroom, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.
A department statement said Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested at his home and is being held in custody on £1.45 million bail.
The district attorney's office said Berndt has been charged with committing lewd acts with 23 boys and girls.
The investigation began when a film processor gave authorities about 40 photographs showing blindfolded children in a classroom with their mouths taped shut.
Some of the photos showed Berndt with his arm around the children or with his hand over their mouths.
"In addition, 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. There are also photos of children with large live Madagascar-type cockroaches on their faces and mouths," the statement said.
A blue plastic spoon and container found in a bin in his classroom tested positive for semen, the statement said.
Berndt worked for more than 30 years at Miramonte Elementary School in south Los Angeles before being fired.