Father Hides Recording Device in Daughter's Hair to Expose Teacher
Bullying has long been a problem in our school system and the problem is only getting worse. According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, one in five students have reported being bullied. Bullying can have long-term psychological effects, and in some cases, even lead to suicide. It’s obviously a huge problem, and it's a no-brainer to say that it isn't okay, but what exactly can we do about it?
It’s impossible to change human behavior but we can take better action against bullies and that means doing what we can to guide our kids on the right path and ensure schools are taking proper action against bullying behavior. But what happens when the teachers are doing the bullying?
While kids are often thought to be the perpetrators of bullying, sometimes the adults can be just as bad. And that’s what this story is all about. Next your kid comes home crying, it may not be safe to assume that another child is at fault. Sometimes it’s the teacher as one parent learned. And when he took his evidence to the school, you won’t believe their response!
This is the story of the Valerio family and the stand they took against bullying.
Having a Child Has Its Ups and Downs
Seeing the joy on your child’s face when they are playing and having fun, discovering something new or opening a gift is something every parent lives for.
But it can be downright devastating when a parent sees their child unhappy, and that’s exactly what was happening to Tomas Valerio.
Going to School
Tomas Valerio’s daughter was just a young girl in kindergarten. She would go to school each day and come home just like any other girl of her age.
She went to Pine Grove Elementary School in Spring Hill, Florida, a city with a population of 113,568 as of 2020. Pine Grove is just one of six elementary schools in the area, not including four K-8 schools and additional private schools.
Most children come home relieved after school - finally able to play, watch and do the things they love to do at home.But Valerio’s daughter loved going school – at first. But that feeling did not last once she knew what was in store for her each and every day at her new school.
It wasn’t long before Tomas Valerio’s daughter stopped wanting to attend school. Each morning she would protest having to go, which in itself is fairly normal for any kid, so Tomas didn’t think too much of it at first.
Typically, and speaking from experience, your child will put up a fight about going, but ultimately they will do what they are supposed to, and they’ll be fine at the end of the day — not unlike adults going to work each day. But I digress.
Nothing But Sad Days
Tomas Valerio’s daughter didn’t want to go to school each day and she also didn’t feel any better once she was finally home. In fact, she felt worse.
She would come home from school looking incredibly sad, and sometimes would even come home in tears. But what could be making her so unhappy?
Going to school can be a scary time in a child’s life, especially for a Kindergarten student. It’s their first time at school and adjusting to the change can take a while.
It involves spending much more time away from their parents than they are used to and it also involves new responsibilities they previously didn’t have. But that’s not exactly what was bothering the Valerio daughter.
Refusing to Communicate
And while the daughter would come to school each day, visibly upset, she did not feel she could tell her father what was wrong, despite his efforts to inquire.
This can be frustrating for any parent who just wants to see their child happy. When the child will not communicate the problem, it can be incredibly difficult to deal with. Because as a parent, all you want to do is solve the problem.
Taking Matters into His Own Hands
Powerless to get his daughter to speak up about here feelings and the fact that her grades were declining, Tomas Valerio needed to figure out what was wrong.
While he may have suspected bullying to be the cause of her problems at school, he’d be surprised to learn just where the bullying was coming from.
The New Teacher
One factor that Tomas Valerio did not consider in his daughter’s mood changes was the fact that she had a new teacher, having just moved to Spring Hill. Could she have missed her old teacher? Well, yes, but with good reason!
But also no, the problem wasn’t just that she missed her old one teacher. As her grades declined along with her well-being, it should have became more evident that the teacher was to blame but that wasn’t exactly the giveaway.
After talking to their daughter more, the Valerio parents came to learn a little more about what was bothering their daughter when she finally came clean about it.
His daughter expressed to her parents that her teacher was “mean” and “loud.” Surprised to learn this fact, Valerio had no choice but to bring it up to school officials in hopes they would look into it.
The Official Response
Valerio’s predicament would become an even bigger problem once he realized school officials were not about to do anything about the teacher.
The principal expressed to Tomas Valerio that the teacher, who had been working there for 13 years, was naturally loud and his daughter merely needed time to adjust to the change. But Tomas Valerio was not convinced.
Tomas Valerio knew he needed to do something. If his daughter wasn’t going to tell him exactly what was happening, and the principal was not convinced there was even a problem, he was just going to have to investigate the matter himself.
He decided to listen in. A violation of his child’s privacy to be sure, but she was also just a Kindergartner. The only way to figure out what was troubling her was to track down the source. After concluding that it was perfectly legal with the police department, Valerio took action.
Tomas Valerio would attach a listening device to his daughter when she went to school. He clipped a small microphone into her hair that she was not aware of, nor were the teachers or school officials.
And so he would send his daughter off to school with the microphone clipped to her hair, hoping to acquire some evidence about what was going on in his child’s classroom. And his findings were disturbing to say the least.
Tomas Valerio came to find that the teacher was not only mean to his daughter, but to all the students, yelling at them over every little mistake. Clearly, not a woman who loves kids.
Among the statements found on the recording was the teacher screaming at the children, ”Stop talking! For once in your lives stop talking!”
In the Teacher’s Word’s
In another recording, “Why would you put an open drink in your backpack? It’s common sense… What’s going to happen to an open drink that goes into your backpack?” And as the child begins to reply, the teacher continues to yell at the student, exclaiming, “It’s going to spill all over everything!”
In another inappropriate exchange, the teacher berates a student over their struggles with a math problem, saying “Obviously, you don’t understand it!” Definitely, not a polite way to talk to any small child.
Back to the Principal
After bringing his recording straight to school officials, the principal refused to listen to Valerio’s recordings, citing a school policy against secretly-obtained recordings. Nevertheless, the school promised to investigate the matter.
However, allegedly the school had stayed in contact with the Valerio parents and offered several solutions for their daughter, including allowing her to change teachers. But that was not enough as Valerio did not feel comfortable with his daughter attending school while that teacher was there.
Because of the school’s unwillingness to take action against the teacher, Valerio went to Change.org to create a petition, calling for the removal of the teacher Mrs. Duncan. In the petition, he detailed his story and his efforts to gather evidence.
It wasn’t long before he was able to gather over 2,000 signatures and also gain attention from the media. Everyone stood in admiration of the loving father’s efforts to get justice for his daughter and her classmates.
To the Press
Valerio was then contacted by a local TV news station. After inquiring about the matter, WFTS, also known as ABC Action News, was able to get a statement from the school.
A spokesperson for the school issued a statement to that said, “We are aware of the concerns expressed by parents from Pine Grove Elementary.” It went on to say, “The school administration concluded their investigation and the teacher was disciplined in accordance with our School Board policy and procedures.”
Spreading the News
The Valerio family’s story would end up getting widespread attention as the news carried across the nation, but for Valerio, it certainly wasn’t about the attention.
Bullying can have long-lasting damage and it doesn’t matter how old or young the perpetrator is, the bullying can cause quite a bit of trauma that can potentially stay with them the rest of their lives.
Did Tomas Valerio’s efforts pay off? Yes and No. Currently, his daughter is being taught under a different teacher and he has brought attention to the serious issue of bullying, which is evidently acceptable at Pine Grove Elementary School who continues to stand by the bullying teacher.
As of the time of this writer, the teacher Mrs. Duncan is still employed by the school and is allowed to teach young children. Whatever disciplinary action the school took, it didn’t have any long-term consequences. But hopefully, as more complaints against the teacher are brought up, the school might finally take action.