Old Testament Treatment For The Miramonte Elementary School Culture

It could be worse; at least no teachers have been turned into pillars of salt.

Following the discovery that two Miramonte Elementary School teachers, Mark Berndt and Martin Springer,  allegedly engaged  in lewd activity with students, Los Angeles Unified School District made the brave decision to replace all teachers and staff, with everyone being re-assigned. Predictably, there have been protests and criticism. The basic argument: it is excessive and unfair. The good teachers, whoever they were, weren’t at fault.

Yes, they were; at least, they were responsible, and share accountability for a culture they were part of. The school district’s decision correctly assumes that when two members of a relatively small teaching staff abuse young children over a long period, something is rotten at the school beyond those teachers. Oversight is lax, administrators are looking the other way, teachers are protecting colleagues or refusing to acknowledge the implications of what they see or hear. There is a substantial chance that the Miramonte Elementary School didn’t just have some proverbial bad apples, but that it had created a culture that encouraged apples to go bad. There can be no certainty that Berndt and Springer were the only abusers on the staff, and the safety of children is at stake. Clear out the school, and wipe out the culture; have new personnel from top to bottom. It is easier to start over with a rotten culture than to try to fix it: this was God’s attitude in the Old Testament, and He had a point. The difference is that He killed off corrupt cultures with floods and fire, or just made them wander in the desert for generations.  Luckily, this isn’t Congress, Wall Street, Hollywood, or Rupert Murdoch’s empire. You can start all over with a school.

I am assuming that the clean sweep includes administrators, and every one of those teachers and staff who have been transferred have to be watched closely. Cultures can be corrupted by single individuals if they are charming, persuasive and clever: we don’t know whether the Typhoid Mary of this situation has just been sent to a new place to infect. The district must investigate everyone involved thoroughly and also review its own procedures, for this nest of corruption was built under its faulty eye.

The Old Testament treatment is an oldie but a goodie when it comes to fixing broken cultures, and it should be used more often. There have been other examples–disgraced accounting firm Arthur Andersen is one of them. When an organization or institution persistently generates outrageously unethical conduct, starting all over from scratch can be the best approach. And the staff members thus displaced should read about Moses, Noah, Lot and the rest and feel fortunate rather than mistreated, for it could be a lot worse. God could get involved, and it wouldn’t be pretty.

5 thoughts on “Old Testament Treatment For The Miramonte Elementary School Culture

  1. What would happen if this were applied widely? How many schools should we do this to? This was the idea with this administration’s education policy, but once the realized how many schools they needed to wipe clean, they lost their nerve.

    What if we extended it beyond the schools? What about the police forces in the US? How many examples do we have of cultures of corruption? From the crime lab fiascos of Oklahoma City, Houston, and the FBI to the ‘confession dungeons’ of Chicago, how many police forces could use the same treatment? For a recent example, here is the Nevada Highway Patrol. Note that there are at least 7 officers involved here.


    • There are many “cultures” that could do with this treatment including perhaps some police. However I dont think this video shows the use of unreasonable force. Forget about the guy being in insulin shock and the video is a man disobeying instructions and resisting. Even the kicks are merely a tactic to get control of the resisting man. Some police go too far; that is an undeniable truth, but these men and women are constantly under attack for using measures to keep themselves safe in uncertain situations; I cant fault them for that.
      Now politicians on the other hand— fire them all, and lets start over.

  2. Jack,
    If any of my numerous misdeeds were ever to come to light, there would no doubt be those who would make the same arguments about my parents, family, and friends; but they’d be wrong. It’s all a matter of obfuscation. Long-standing bad behavior is either the sign of lax enforcement, a standard of complicity or a sociopathic cunning at a level most people aren’t prepared to play at and these two would seem to belong to the latter.

    Child molesters don’t send out missionaries to convert others, nor does one teacher decide molestation is okay just because he sees someone else doing it and not getting in trouble (the motivation was already there). I will admit ignorance to the more specific matters of this case to say whether or not the reorganization was necessary, but it seems a tad bit of bureaucratic overkill and, frankly, could create even more problems (what if there were more bad apples in the new bunch?).

    Something to consider ..


    • I don’t disagree, Neil, and it’s a point worth making—it is indeed like burning down the town to get rid of contagion. You accept the destruction to make certain the problem is solved, at least in that local. It’s Draconian. It does also have another advantage–it sends a clear message about what can happen if people don’t do the right thing, and let it become a habit.

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