MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A South Florida woman has hired an attorney after she claims her 5-year-old son's kindergarten teacher was bullying him and called him a loser.
Kandy Escotto said her concerns were ignored by administrators at Banyan Elementary School in Westchester, but a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade County Public School District said the principal had previously spoken with the mother and removed her son from the teacher's classroom.
"He was behaving super weird," Escotto said. "He didn't want to go to school. He would cry when he knew he needed to go to school."
Escotto said she was concerned her son Aaron was being bullied in his classroom.
"He said that he didn't want to go to school -- that they were not being nice to him," Escotto said.
Escotto said Aaron once told her that he was a "bad boy" while she was helping him with homework.
"I said, 'Aaron, why do you say that?' He said, 'That's what my teacher tells me when I do my work,'" Escotto said.
The concerned mother placed a recording device in Aaron's backpack.
She claims she caught Aaron's teacher, Rosalba G. Suarez, calling him a loser and belittling him in front of the entire class.
After the boy asks a question, a woman, who Escotto claims is the boy's teacher, responds: "Aaron, y tu is a losers."
"When you have a recording, and it's clear that this teacher is berating and abusing and calling a 5-year-old kindergartner a loser, (there's) not much investigating to do," attorney Raphael Lopez said.
In another instance, the woman called the boy out because he didn't know how to bubble in answers.
"Raise your hand if you know how to bubble?" the woman asked. "Aaron doesn't know. It's simple."
In a final clip, the woman told the young boy that she felt sorry for his mother.
"You still don't know how to write," she said. "I don't know what to say to your mom. She is driving me crazy. Why is she driving me crazy?"
"I feel sorry for your mom. I really do. She is a little lost," the woman added.
"It was shocking to me because I knew something was going on, but I didn't know it was that bad," Escotto said. "I cried and cried. Then I understood his behavior."
Escotto said she went the principal.
"I went at least five times to the office. I spoke at least twice to the assistant principal. I spoke to the principal, and they didn't do anything about it," Escotto said. "They recommended I remove him from the class, which was not the solution."
M-DCPS spokeswoman Jackie Calzadilla confirmed that the principal had previously met with the student's parents, but said school officials were not aware of a recording.
Escotto said she also spoke with her son's teacher.
"She was very arrogant. She said she didn't like Aaron's behavior. I don't understand why."
Escotto's attorneys said the concerned mother wants the teacher removed the school so no child has to be verbally attacked again by her.
While it's illegal in Florida to record someone without their consent, one of Escotto's attorney said the teacher has no right to privacy in this case.
"In a public school classroom, with other children and people entering and exiting, there is no expectation of privacy," the attorney said. "It's not illegal in this situation."
Escotto said she had her son removed from the class.
"After I changed him from the class, he did really well," she said. "He went to honor roll. His grades changed and he's happy now."
Attorney Sonia Roca called the incidents an "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and a "breach of fiduciary duty."
Calzadilla said the school district is looking into the situation.
"Miami-Dade County Public Schools goes to great lengths to promote a culture of dignity and respect, not only among our students but with our employees," an M-DCPS statement read. "We work diligently to ensure the well-being of every child entrusted to our care. Any action that runs contrary to the values we instill in our school community will not be tolerated. The district will conduct a thorough review of this matter and, if the allegations are substantiated, we will take any and all appropriate disciplinary actions."
At this time, Suarez has not been reprimanded or removed from the classroom.
School officials said she has worked for the district since 1985 and has had no issues. In fact, they said she was teacher of the year at Banyan Elementary last year.