PEMBROKE PINES, FLA. (WSVN) - Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie met with the parents of special needs students at an elementary school in Pembroke Pines after a recording captured their teachers cursing and screaming at the children.
Jason Segelbaum and other parents whose children are kindergartners on the autism spectrum met with Runcie, Monday night.
The concerned parents said a teacher and teacher’s aide at Pasadena Lakes Elementary School verbally abused their children.
“This was a nightmare for us. That’s really what it comes down to,” he said.
Segelbaum said his son’s inability to articulate makes him more vulnerable.
“Our children, they don’t have the same abilities that other children have,” he said. “They can’t communicate on the same level. He can’t say what needs to be said.”
The parents kept their children out of school when they heard the recording from the classroom.
“Do your work. (inaudible) Drag your ass over there. Watch me. Try me,” a woman is heard telling a student in the recording.
One of the women could also be heard cursing.
“That mother (expletive) say (expletive) to me,” she said.
Another teacher became angry at one of her students.
“You better not touch me or scratch me, you understand? You are getting a diaper change!” she said.
The parents were able to hear the teachers by using a device, called “Angel Sense,” made for children on the autism spectrum. Parents can call and listen in.
In one clip, one of the students, named Mercedes, is heard screaming.
“Why are you not doing your work? Why are you not doing your work? Go to time out. Go to time out,” one of the teachers is heard yelling at her.
The girl’s parents said that was the same day she came home with a bruise on her left arm.
“I wanted to know the traumatization that my daughter is now going through and all the other kids are going through and how this is going to affect our kids,” said her mother, Gisela Lopez.
The parents notified the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and the school district issued a robocall in which Runcie confirmed the employees were suspended.
“As soon as we became aware of the allegation, school administration took swift action and immediately removed the employees from the classroom. They have been relocated off-site and away from students,” he said in the robocall.
Speaking with 7News Monday afternoon, Anna Fusco, the president of the Broward Teachers Union, agreed with the suspensions.
“The teacher and the assistant are not working with students. They were reassigned instantly,” she said.
The parents said their meeting with Runcie led to a productive dialogue and a promising outcome.
“The one thing that he did promise us is that these two teachers will never set foot in another class in Broward,” said Segelbaum.
“That really does give me some peace at night, because I would not want those ladies anywhere near a student, whether they’re special or ‘gen ed,'” said Lopez. “They shouldn’t be teaching.”
The Pembroke Pines Police Department and the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s Child Protective Investigations Section are investigating.
Fusco asked the public to withhold judgement until the investigation is complete.
“Someone else had control of the listening device, so we’re not sure what was done with it,” she said. “We’re not sure what was all heard on it.”
As of Tuesday, the students’ parents were preparing to address the school board.
Meanwhile, the parents said they’ll continue to push for the installation of cameras in the classrooms.
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