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Tonya Papanikolas reporting How much do you really know about what goes on in your child's classroom? A case in Houston probably has many parents wondering. A teacher was recorded verbally attacking students in class.
The abuse in Houston was taking place with 4 and 5-year-olds. Here in Utah, private preschool teachers do not need to be licensed, so parents really need to be on alert for any kind of teacher who may be demeaning a child.
When 4-year-old Megan Mijares went to school, her parents trusted she was being treated well in her Houston classroom. But that assumption was wrong.
Her father, Oscar Mijares, said, "It was shocking. I couldn't believe it."
After being told their daughter had behavioral problems, the family placed a digital tape recorder in Megan's backpack. This is what they heard: "Nobody are you good for. You're just a bad kid. When are you going to be a good kid?"
The teacher singled out students and directed anger toward the entire class. Among the things she could also be heard saying, was, "You're just mean to your teacher, and I'm going to be mean to you, too," and "Ya'll are just stupid kids, I swear to God."
We took the comments to a childhood development specialist and a state Office of Education employee. Both said these kinds of situations are not common, but they do happen.
Cheryl Wright, Family & Consumer Studies Chair at the Univ. of Utah, said, "Most of our teachers are wonderful, but there are some teachers that get easily frustrated with children, particularly at that preschool age."
For young children, the verbal attacks can be damaging on self-esteem. Wright says, "If you keep telling me I'm a rotten, terrible kid, then in fact I'll live up to that reputation or label you've given me."
Carol Lear, with the State Office of Education, says, "Parents should definitely intervene and not let that happen, not let that continue."
If a parent does suspect problems in a child's classroom, educators say the parents need to talk to the child first. "I think the parent can really talk carefully to their child and listen with an open mind," Lear said.
Then make it a point to observe the classroom, watching if the children are afraid of a teacher. And if you still suspect a problem, confront the teacher.
Lear says, "Teachers shouldn't ever be hurtful to children."
From there, obviously, talk to the principal.
Again, we want to emphasize these situations are not real common. Excluding preschools, most school teachers go through training and discussions with their districts on classroom management.