FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4)- Two former South Florida teachers filed lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Miami, claiming they were fired for reporting suspected child abuse by a Catholic school principal.
Former teachers Lynn Hoffman and Chanell Morello said they were fired earlier this year from Saint Anthony Catholic School in Fort Lauderdale because they told the Department of Children and Families that a seventh grade student was abused.
Hoffman said when she was fired it was more than a monetary loss.
“Even more than the monetary impact, they took my life,” she said. “They robbed me of what I enjoyed most, teaching kids.”
Morello said she was only doing what was correct.
“This has been a living nightmare after reporting what happened to this student. How can this happen after doing the right thing?,” she said. “They told me to keep my mouth shut or I would be fired.”
Morello said it was last January when the student approached her in a lunchroom. She said the student was hysterical.
“She cried out ‘help me,’” Morello said. “She said she was touched in an inappropriate way. Her skirt was raised up and she was exposed. It was horrible and she was scared and asked for help.”
Morello said she told Hoffman, who saw the student.
“She was so upset,” Hoffman said. “She was sick to her stomach.”
Hoffman, a former teacher of the year, said she spoke to principal Norma Kramer.
“The day this occurred she said she was going to be taken out of the school in handcuffs because of what she did, lifting up a girl’s skirt,” Hoffman said.
The teachers said they reported the abuse and months after it happened Kramer made sure they were fired. Kramer is no longer with the school, CBS4’s Peter D’Oench reported.
“Being fired is a terrible thing…and also the loss of income,” Hoffman said. “The mission of the school is to safeguard the students and have a safe and nurturing environment. That did not happen.”
Attorney Jeff Herman is suing the school and the Archdiocese of Miami.
“These teachers are heroes,” Herman said. “They should have been embraced for what they did. Instead, they were ostracized and cast out. This should not have happened.”
The Archdiocese of Miami said it has not seen the lawsuit but that they do provide a safe environment for students by requiring the reporting of inappropriate behavior.
“The Archdiocese of Miami provides safe environments for its 34,000 students in the Catholic School system through the “Teaching Touching Safety” program for children and VIRTUS training for adults, thorough background checks and mandatory reporting of inappropriate behavior,” their statement read.
Parents at the school meanwhile told CBS4 they did not want to speak about the case.
Herman has not said how much money he’ll be seeking on behalf of the teachers. He added that he wants to see that “justice is done.”
Meanwhile, the teachers said they have not been able to find employment since they were fired.