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Teachers Charged With Failing To Report Abuse Reassigned

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(CBS4)

(CBS4)

South Florida Crime

DAVIE (CBS4) - Three teachers who worked at Western High School in Davie face misdemeanor charges of failing to report child sexual abuse were reassigned to other locations during the investigation into their conduct.

Investigative documents obtained by CBS4 News from the Broward State Attorney’s Office lay out the allegations against the teachers. Prosecutors said two years ago a special needs child wrote an essay in which she described how she was raped by someone she dated. Prosecutors say the child’s teacher, Cathy Schwartz, shared the essay with two other teachers but that none of the trio contacted the state’s child abuse hotline.

The child’s mother did not want to be identified. She says she didn’t learn about the essay until 7 months later when it was disclosed during a meeting about her daughter’s educational progress.

“(The teachers) didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” the mother said during an interview in May when the allegations first surfaced. “They didn’t do the right thing and the story is what it is today.”

The mother says her teenaged daughter chose the essay as a way to describe the things in which she was dealing.

“That was how my daughter was able to speak out about this situation and that was her way of crying out for help,” the mother said. “Instead of getting help the situation was ignored.”

Prosecutors say Schwartz graded the assignment and shared it with teacher Mirtha Fernandez and a third teacher but none of the teachers contacted the state’s child abuse hotline. The State Attorney’s Office says the third teacher has not yet formally been served with a criminal summons so her name is not being released.

“Just on a common sense basis, you pick up the phone and you contact the parents with a concern for reading something so horrific,” the student’s mother said.

Prosecutors say all three of the teachers who worked at Western High are charged with failure to report child sexual abuse. An attorney for one of the teachers told CBS 4 News that the student later told her teacher that the essay was made up. The child’s mother disputes that claim. She believes the teachers should have stepped up immediately to report what they learned.

“You know that this child has special education needs,” she said. “She has special psychological needs and then this sort of horrific thing you don’t do anything to try to protect her?”

A spokesperson at the Broward School District says they continue to investigate the case.  Last week, Broward County Schools said the teachers still worked at Western High School, but had given CBS4 News incorrect information.  Now, the district says the teachers were reassigned away from the school until the as the investigation into their conduct moves forward.

The victim’s mother called that “appalling” and told CBS 4 News on Friday that she feels the teachers should be removed from the school.

Prosecutors say failure to report possible child abuse to state officials is a first degree misdemeanor. If convicted the three teachers could spend up to one year in jail.

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