SAN ANTONIO – A special education teacher at Indian Creek Elementary School was fired last month, weeks after she was accused of striking a 5-year-old autistic child with a computer tablet.
Southwest Independent School District's board of trustees voted to terminate Rosemary Diaz on Feb. 21, less than three weeks after she was suspended with pay because of the incident.
The Feb. 1 incident was captured on a video camera installed in Diaz's classroom.
The district's superintendent confirmed that the family of the child was permitted to watch the video last week, but said privacy laws prevented him from discussing its contents.
"I'm shocked and hurt. I put my trust in other people to make sure my son receives the best possible care," said Cassandra Gomez, the student's mother.
Gomez, who asked that the Defenders not use her son's name, said her child was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old. He has difficulty talking and recently has battled seizures.
Gomez said Diaz sent a note home in her son's folder Feb. 1 indicating that the child had struck Diaz with his personal Samsung Galaxy tablet.
However, the next day, Gomez said she received a call from Indian Creek's principal explaining what happened.
"(They) had film from the classroom of the teacher striking my son with a tablet. 'We're very sorry. We're in shock that this could happen at our school. We don't know what to tell you,'" said Gomez, recalling the principal's phone call.
District records confirmed that Diaz was placed on paid leave a day after the incident.
Gomez said the footage shows her son using the tablet to try to get Diaz's attention, before she takes it away and strikes him with it.
Southwest ISD has refused to release footage of what happened, claiming through the district's attorney that the video is part of the student's "education record."
The district has also refused to release information related to a police investigation of the incident, citing concerns about "employment rights and intercession into an open investigation."
In a written statement, Southwest ISD spokesperson Janice Hernandez told The Defenders, "The safety of our students is top priority and these types of allegations are taken seriously and will be investigated thoroughly."
State records show Diaz has been certified in special education for 17 years.
A Texas Education Agency spokesperson confirmed Monday that the district reported Diaz within the required timeframe.
Diaz has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Defenders.
A family member confirmed Diaz has hired an attorney, but refused to go on the record to discuss what happened.
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