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Teacher Charged with Taking Bondage Pics of Students

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A former elementary school teacher in Los Angeles has been arrested for allegedly molesting nearly two dozen children after photos of students posed in bondage positions were passed to the Sheriff's Department.

Mark Berndt, 61, a teacher with over 30 years experience at Miramonte Elementary School in south Los Angeles, is charged with molesting 23 children, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Police began the investigation after a photo processing facility passed along suspicious images depicting students blindfolded with their mouths covered in tape. Female students were depicted with a blue plastic spoon containing "an unknown clear/white liquid" in front of their mouths, while other students were pictured with live cockroaches on their faces. In some photos, Berndt had his arm around the children or his hand over their mouths.

Police found the spoon, along with an empty container in the trash in Berndt's classroom and, through DNA testing, determined that both contained Berndt's semen.

The students were between the ages of 7 and 10 years old when the alleged crimes occurred, police said.

Authorities launched a widespread sex crime investigation, interviewing current and former students and school employees and searching Berndt's home. They recovered a total of 390 photographs and an adult "sexual bondage" film which mirrored the photos of the children, according to a statement by the sheriff's department on Tuesday.

More than 26 children from the photographs have been identified; an additional 10 children have not yet been identified, police said.

Shortly after the investigation began, in March, 2011, Berndt was fired from the school. The school did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

Berndt was arrested Monday and charged with 23 felony counts of lewd acts upon a child. He is being held at LA County jail in lieu of $2.3 million bail.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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