MIAMI (CBSMiami) — An alleged hazing incident at a prominent Miami-Dade prep school has prompted the suspension of a long-time teacher and an investigation by police.
Graduates of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School litter the campuses of Ivy League universities. But now the prestigious, all-male school is in the middle of a probe regarding a reported hazing in a classroom.
Cristina Ramirez, a teacher for more than 25 years at Belen is being investigated after the incident she allegedly encouraged, or did not try to stop.
Her attorney flatly denied the allegation Friday afternoon.
According to school and police sources, a high school student failed to bring a required donation of bottled water for a carnival booth at this weekend’s annual Belen festival. The student was allegedly sent to the front of the classroom, where he was pelted by classmates with paper balls and other items. It is not clear to what extent, if any, the boy was injured.
Belen’s president, Fr. Guillermo García-Tuñón, issued a statement saying “the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff are of the utmost importance. We are looking into the matter, and cooperating with all persons involved.”
Among those involved are Miami-Dade police, who issued a statement saying “the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Special Victims Bureau is handling the incident. The case is an open investigation at this time.”
Parents Friday were withholding judgement.
“I don’t know if that’s just an allegation. I’d love to hear more of the details. That’s shocking. I wouldn’t think that would happen at Belen,” said parent Valerie Lanza.
Cristina Ramirez was described by one administration source as a “gifted, valued educator.”
She has been relieved of teaching duties pending the outcome of the hazing probe. No students had been suspended or expelled as of midday Friday.
Giorgio Ramirez, an attorney representing the teacher, who is also his sister, told CBS4 News late Friday afternoon that she did nothing wrong.
“My client did not participate in or direct any hazing of this student,” Giorgio Ramirez said. The attorney said the student wrote the teacher a written apology the day of the alleged incident, and made no mention of any hazing. The attorney said if the hazing occurred, it was not in the teacher’s presence. The attorney claimed that no complaint of alleged hazing was made on the day of the alleged incident.
This weekend’s annual festival will go on as scheduled on campus.
A Miami-Dade police spokesperson told CBS4 News the investigation is very much on-going, and it may or may not result in a criminal charge or charges being brought.
Through an intermediary, Cristina Ramirez declined to comment for this report.