Mark Berndt, charged with 23 counts of lewd acts upon a child (Reuters/LA police)
Mark Berndt, charged with 23 counts of lewd acts upon a child (Reuters/LA police)

A former Los Angles school teacher has been arrested for allegedly binding and gagging two dozen children, putting cockroaches on their faces and feeding them semen.

Mark Berndt, 61, a former third-grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in south Los Angeles, has been charged with committed lewd acts with 23 children aged between seven and 10.

Authorities began investigating Berndt in October 2010 after photographs containing children in classrooms with their eyes blindfolded and mouths gagged with tape were handed into police by a photo developer.

Some of the photos depicted a girls with blue plastic spoon filled with a clear white substance, believed to be Berndt's semen, raised to the girl's mouth.

Police found a plastic spoon and an empty container which both contains traces of Berndt's semen in the rubbish bin of his classroom.

"This occurred in his regular classroom with his students," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott, speaking to the Los Angeles Times. "It wasn't done in secrecy. The only secret was what the 'game' was really about."

Police have recommended that the children in the photos get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

There are further photographs which show children with "large live Madagascar-type cockroaches on their faces and mouths," according to the Los Angeles Police statement.

A total of 390 photographs of children in similar scenes have been discovered either at the home of Berndt or at the film processing store. Twenty six of the children have since been identified from the photographs. Police are still trying to identify about 10 children.

Investigators also recovered a bondage DVD from Berndt's house depicting adult sexual bondage activity. While the content was legal, the scenes did mirror the bondage-style photos of the children, according a statement released by the Los Angeles sheriff's department.

Berndt, who worked at the south Los Angeles school for more than 30 years, was arrested on Monday and is being held on $2.3m (£1.5m) bail.

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