Education

‘It’s prison time, b---h!’ Special ed teacher, security guard assaulted boy, suit says

Students leave for the summer on the last day of the 2010-2011 school year at Fienberg-Fisher K-8 Center in Miami Beach.
Students leave for the summer on the last day of the 2010-2011 school year at Fienberg-Fisher K-8 Center in Miami Beach. Miami Herald file photo

One day back in February, a minor food fight broke out at Fienberg-Fisher K-8 Center in Miami Beach.

A boy threw water on another boy. That boy threw milk back. A substitute teacher disciplined them.

But the next day, the teacher of the eighth grade boy who threw milk decided to take matters into his own hands, according to a lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. The teacher slammed the boy’s head against his desk five times and shoved him to the ground. Then the security monitor took the boy to another room.

“It’s prison time, bitch!” the guard said. “Welcome to Fienberg, bitch!”

The lawsuit, first reported by the Miami New Times, accuses the teacher, Jose Arenas, and the security guard, Angel Martinez, of assault and battery, the Miami-Dade County school district of negligence, and all three parties of causing emotional distress. The two employees have asked the School Board attorney for representation in the case, which is subject to School Board approval at the Nov. 21 board meeting.

Arenas and Martinez still show up in district records as employees at Fienberg-Fisher. Arenas, 56, teaches students with emotional and behavioral disabilities and has worked in the district for 30 years. Martinez, 39, has been employed by the district for five years.

Arenas directed a request for comment to a School Board attorney, who referred it to the district. Martinez did not return a request for comment.

“When the allegations surfaced last school year, it was reviewed by the incident review team and subsequently rejected because the witness statements did not corroborate the claims,” school district spokeswoman Jackie Calzadilla wrote in an email. She declined to comment further because of pending litigation, but added that neither Arenas nor Martinez “have any reported issues with the district.”

The lawsuit states the boy, who is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, severe anxiety and depression and only identified as J.A.F., attended Fienberg-Fisher in Miami Beach for special education services. His mother, Alma Felix, is bringing the lawsuit on his behalf.

After the boy was shoved to the ground, the lawsuit says Arenas ordered the boy to take off his shoes, socks and sweater, although Arenas allegedly pulled the boy’s shirt off. He demanded the boy apologize to the class by saying, “I am sorry for being a bad kid,” according to the suit.

Then, according to the lawsuit, Arenas and Martinez shoved the boy from classmate to classmate while calling him a “bitch” and a “p---y.”

“When the torture against J.A.F. was over, J.A.F. was left beaten, bloody, bullied, traumatized, belittled, disrespected and inflicted with dental damage and other injuries,” the lawsuit stated.

The boy has stated that he does not feel safe and has not returned to school.

Former St. Martin special needs teacher Kerri Nettles was charged with misdemeanor neglect and simple assault for her treatment of a disabled student riding the bus in 2014 and 2015. She pleaded no contest in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Contact Colleen Wright at 305-376-3003 and @Colleen_Wright.
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