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NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – A former Miami-Dade school teacher at Brownsville Middle School says she lost her job after reporting that one of her students told her that she had been molested by her stepfather.
The Miami-Dade School District is fighting back and a spokeswoman said that the former teacher failed to report the alleged abuse right away as required by school policy.
Diana Castella’s job as a part-time teacher in a special program at the school ended recently. She said she was told funding had run out.
Schools spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “This is the time of year when funding gets depleted and that funding is no longer there.” She also said Castella would have lost her job even if the funding had not run out because she failed to report the alleged abuse in a timely manner.
Castella said she had been teaching for the past two years in the I-Prep program.
Coincidentally, Castella lost her job days after reporting that an 11-year-old student told her that her stepfather had sexually assaulted her numerous times and said the abuse started when she was 8-years-old. A police report said the victim said she was fondled repeatedly in her “private parts” and she said the stepfather threatened to harm her if she spoke about the crimes.
A police report says the stepfather is charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under the age of 16 and lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12.
“It’s a coincidence,” Castella told D’Oench. “The father gets arrested and I get fired. I told and I got in trouble for saving a student and giving her back her life. I feel an injustice. The principal never thanked me. Nobody thanked me. I have been punished.”
Castella says she reported the abuse the day after finding out after speaking with another teacher at the school who told her to report the abuse.
“I was told about three in the afternoon,” she said. “School gets out at four in the afternoon. I reported it first thing in the morning.”
But Gonzalez-Diego notes that school policy requires “each report of known or suspected child abuse, abandonment or neglect shall be made immediately.” She says all certified teachers like Castella are told this policy.
“If a child is confiding in a teacher in something as serious as this it is of paramount importance for the teacher to report this in a timely fashion,” said Gonzalez-Diego. “Going home and waiting for the next day to report it is not good enough. The child could have been seriously injured that night. The teacher has a responsibility to report immediately any activity that she sees or anything suspicious right away.”
Gonzalez-Diego said when Castella was told that she would no longer be needed, her Principal told her and had her sign an OPS (Office of Professional Standards) document admitting she had failed to report the incident in a timely manner.
“The outcome of her no longer being needed would have been the same whether there was funding or not,” said Gonzalez-Diego.
Castella said, “I didn’t know about having to report this right away. I didn’t have a booklet. I didn’t have a document. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”
She also said she misses teaching.
“I love making a difference with the kids I love,” she said.
Castella said she plans to hire an attorney.
She said she had been teaching for the past 10 years and has no other teaching prospects right now since the school year will be finished in three months. “Where am I going to get a job right now,” she said. Castella said she is so discouraged that she may try to find another profession.