Special education teacher at Auburndale Elementary School arrested, fired after child abuse accusations

MIAMI (WSVN) - A special education teacher at Auburndale Elementary School has been arrested and fired after some alarming allegations.

Graciela Reyes-Marino, 60, was arrested on Thursday after she allegedly shoved, kicked and punched two students during class.

Roxana Meneses’ 5-year-old son Benjamin is a child with autism and is non-verbal. When police called her saying something had happened to him while at the school, she panicked. Then, she became frustrated because, she said, no one gave her any details.

Meneses said, “One employee told on another employee that he was abused, and I’m like, ‘What type of abuse? Can I see my son?’ He can’t really tell us what’s going on, and they’re telling us what is involved in the investigation, who is involved. How can I know, especially in times like this, that my child is OK? There are no words because you feel helpless.”

The mother believes the teacher’s arrest may be linked to her son’s incident, but she’s not 100% sure. She has since pulled her child from the school.

“Then, we find out that a teacher is arrested, and it so happens that’s the same teacher that actually teaches his class,” Amanda Suriel, an attorney who is representing the family, said. “She is supposed to be the one taking care of them, and the negligence in hiring, in training of these teachers that are dealing with these very special needs kids, it’s unfortunate that it’s played out this way.”

According to the arrest form, in one of the incidents, a witness claimed a student kept crying and screaming, and that is when Reyes-Marino grabbed him by the wrist, shoved him to the bathroom area and left him there for approximately three to four seconds.

As the student continued to scream and cry, the witness told authorities they let the student out of the bathroom.

7News has learned what caused that student to get upset was another incident that occurred right before.

According to the arrest form, “Defendant asked victim one to sit down repeatedly. When victim one stood up for the third time, defendant forcefully sat him down on his chair by putting both hands on victim one’s shoulders. Victim one stood up, screamed ‘No,’ kicked defendant and threw himself to the floor. Defendant forcefully lifted victim one from the ground, proceeded to kick him in the leg and punch him with a closed fist on his upper back area prior to sitting him down.”

There may have also been a third incident with another student, as the arrest report reads, “a witness said during their reading session, the teacher punched a student on the top part of his back when he kept looking underneath the desk.”

When the accusations against Reyes-Marino surfaced, the district reassigned her as authorities investigated. She has been fired since she is facing charges of child abuse and child neglect with no great bodily harm.

Reyes-Marino denies using physical force to restrain a student and denies the third incident, as well. She said she was going to grab a diaper for the student who was in the bathroom.

Ivette Molina, whose child attends the school and is part of the special education program, was shocked that the incident occurred at her daughter’s school. She said the school sent parents an automated message alerting them of the arrest.

“This school has always been so special and so unique and amazing, so it was just crazy to hear that something like that happened here,” she said. “The message said that there was a situation wIth a child and a teacher, and they were handling the situation. To that extent where you have to punch him, that’s not necessary, and I don’t understand why she would do that. There was no need.”

Miami-Dade County Public Schools officials released a statement following the arrest reading in part, “Miami-Dade County Public Schools is deeply disturbed about the serious allegations made against the employee. Conduct such as the one she is accused of will not be tolerated.”

Reyes-Marino was employed with M-DCPS for eight years. District officials said she will be precluded from seeking future work with M-DCPS.

Meneses said she plans to take legal action, but Suriel said they are gathering information about the investigation. They have also requested any 911 calls made from the school last week.

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