Education

Miami-Dade teacher claims firing came after sex abuse report

A Brownsville Middle School teacher is under investigation for not promptly reporting the suspected sexual abuse of a student, according to the Miami-Dade County School District.

But the part-time teacher, Diana Castella, says she is being retaliated against for reporting the crime — which reportedly took place off campus and involved the student’s relative.

“They don’t care about my student. They care about their reputation,” Castella said.

During a conversation at lunch time, Castella said a student confided that her father “lies on top of her.” Castella said she told another teacher about the revelation, and the teacher told Castella that she had to report the incident.

The next school day, Castella said she told a school counselor. She said the Department of Children and Families and police then got involved.

But two days later, after the student thanked Castella for her help, Castella said she was fired. She said the school’s principal claimed there wasn’t any money for her part-time position. Castella thinks the money issue is an excuse.

“I saved one of Dade County’s students from being molested by her father,” Castella said. “Why aren’t they digging up money to keep my job?”

The district said Castella won’t work for Miami-Dade schools until an investigation is completed — a “customary” practice, said schools spokesman John Schuster.

Castella said she didn’t know about district policy that requires teachers to report suspected abuse right away.

Schuster countered that Castella formerly worked as a full time teacher and therefore would have been trained on reporting requirements. State law also requires people to report suspected abuse or neglect “immediately” or they could face misdemeanor charges.

“You cannot subject a child to another day, another hour of possible abuse,” he said. “It must be reported as promptly as possible.”

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