'Teacher of the Year' Under Investigation After She's Recorded Allegedly Bullying 5-Year-Old

Kandy Escotto has accused a teacher at Banyan Elementary School in Miami, Florida, of bullying her 5-year-old son, including calling him a "loser"

Photo: Courtesy Lopez Roca Law

Rosalba Suarez was named the 2017 “Teacher of the Year” at Banyan Elementary School in Miami, Florida. But one mom claims the veteran teacher isn’t as wonderful as the honor would make her seem.

Kandy Escotto said that last fall her 5-year-old son, Aaron, complained about going to school, and told his mother that he was a “bad boy,” according to the Bradenton Herald.

“I said, ‘Why do you say something like that?’ ” Escotto recalled to the publication. “He said, ‘That’s what the teacher tells me when I don’t do my work.’ ”

Escotto complained to school officials who, she said, told her they couldn’t do anything about the allegations without proof, according to the Washington Post. So, last October, the concerned mother sent Aaron to school with a recorder in his backpack. For four days, she secretly recorded audio of the boy’s class.

In the audio, obtained by PEOPLE, Suarez is heard calling the boy a “loser” and telling the child that Escotto is “a little lost.” In one recording, Suarez is heard scolding the boy for improperly filling out a test.

“That’s not bubbling. Do you understand what bubbling is? What is bubbling? One is circle, and the other one is to bubble,” she said. “Raise your hand if you know how to bubble. Aaron doesn’t know.”

Neither Suarez nor Banyan school officials immediately responded to a request for comment from PEOPLE.

“For me to hear the things that she was saying to him,” Escotto told the Herald. “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. That affected my family, affected him.”

The recordings were made public last week and in a statement to PEOPLE, Miami-Dade Schools officials said they are investigating the situation.

“Miami-Dade County Public Schools is deeply troubled by the audio that purportedly captures a teacher belittling a student. It is disheartening and difficult to hear. Our school district goes to great lengths to promote a culture of dignity and respect among students and employees, and is deliberate in our efforts to ensure the well-being of every child entrusted to our care,” the statement reads.

“Employee behavior, whether in word or deed, that does not conform to the values we instill in our school community is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Immediately upon learning of this audio recording and allegations, we launched an investigation. If these claims are substantiated, we will take any and all appropriate disciplinary actions. Pending the outcome of the investigation, the employee will be placed in a non-school setting once the academic year begins.”

Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, told the Post that the district became aware of the recordings last week.

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