Fear, frustration, futility. Those are just a few of the feelings that rush through your body when you discover your child is being bullied at school, but you can’t figure out who is doing the bullying.
Now imagine the bully is actually your kid’s teacher—the person charged with protecting and educating your child for a substantial portion of the day.
That’s exactly what happened to Kandy Escotto, who sent her 5-year-old son Aaron to school with a tape recorder after school administrators at Banyan Elementary School in Westchester, FL, refused to address her concerns about his kindergarten teacher.
The mom knew something was amiss just two weeks after the school year began last fall. Aaron “was behaving super weird,” she told local news reporters. "He didn't want to go to school. He would cry when he knew he needed to go to school."
One night when they were working on his homework together, he told his mother he was a bad boy, according to the Miami Herald.
“Why do you say something like that?'" Escotto asked. "He said, 'That's what the teacher tells me when I don't do my work.'”
Escotto went to the school's Principal Cheri Davis with her concerns about Aaron’s teacher, Rosalba Suarez, a 33-year veteran teacher who—get this—was named teacher of the year earlier this year. The principal told her she needed proof that Suarez was bullying her son, so the concerned mom bought a recorder, placed it in her son’s backpack and proceeded to listen to 32 hours of audio.
What she heard was illuminating—and enraging.
On the tape, Suarez calls her son a “loser,” humiliates him and another student and mocks him for not learning how to fill in a bubble correctly on a test, she says. When Aaron said he didn't want to participate in class, Suarez can be heard saying in the recording, "I don't care, don't do it, you think I care? Whatever your mom wants to see, honey, whatever your mom wants to see, you tell me what she wants to see a nice job or she wants to see a loser's job."
When she confronted Suarez, the teacher accused her of lying. So Escotto had her son transferred to another classroom and hired a lawyer. (Even though it’s illegal to record someone without consent in the state of Florida, her attorney says the recording is legal since the classroom is a public space.)
“She picked him out, she singled him out, she humiliated him in front of the whole class. She talked about me in front of him. No 5-year-old should be able to go through that,” Escotto told the Miami Herald.
Now that he has a new teacher, Aaron went “from having F's to having excellent grades," she says, although she’s not sure if Aaron or her 10-year-old daughter will return to the school in the fall.
She also hasn’t decided whether or not to pursue legal action, but she wants the teacher to be disciplined. The Miami-Dade County school district, where Aaron’s elementary school is located, has opened an investigation into the matter.
As Escotto told the Miami Herald, "It’s sad that we have to get to this point to get a response from somebody to look into this complaint that I put in a long time ago."