Family suing school over assignment

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

LOS LUNAS, NM (WPVI) -- Parents of a student say a fourth-grade teacher humiliated their son so badly, they had to home school him. The parents are also now in a legal battle with the school district.

Last fall, then 9-year-old Diego Ortega did everything he could do to get out of going to class at Katherine Gallegos Elementary.

"He was starting to make excuses, my head hurts, my stomach hurts," Diego's mom, Alexandria Lente, said. "Crying in the morning, not wanting to go to school."

Lente says one of his fourth-grade teachers, a science teacher, publicly picked on her son. It was during class one day that the teacher started talking about bullying.

"After the presentation...he called my son out to the classroom and asked the class to write an essay on Diego being a bully," she said.

"And then I didn't like that so I started crying," said Diego.

One of the essays calls Diego rude. Another says Diego laughed at the student and called the student a "scared-y cat." A few others say he got in their faces.

Diego's essay, on the other hand, said he felt he was being bullied by his own teacher.

When mom went to pick him up that day, she said Diego was crying profusely. She says when she went to confront the principal, the principal told her it was a learning assignment and was "OK."

It was a few weeks later that the Ortegas pulled Diego out of Katherine Gallegos and home schooled him for the remainder of the year.

He has since returned to a different Los Lunas school, where his parents say he is doing very well compared to this time last year.

"You think your kid is safe at school with teachers, yet you have teachers that are picking on your kids," Lente said.

The Ortega family remains in a legal battle with the school district that stemmed from this incident.

Their attorney, Ed Meintzer, says he filed a public information request seeking the essay copies, along with other documents from Los Lunas School District, in mid-December of last year.

KRQE reports that Meintzer says the school district did not promptly respond to the public information request as required by law and should be held liable for the Ortegas' attorney fees for that reason.

The science teacher is not named because no charges have been filed against him and he has not been named in a direct lawsuit.