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A Florida teacher is facing backlash after she questioned a pair of fifth-graders about whether they were in a same-sex relationship — in front of their entire class.
One of the students is too "ashamed" to show her face at school and has chosen to withdraw for the rest of the academic year, her mother, Jezenia Gambino, told Insider.
It's "digusting" for a teacher to confront children about their sexuality simply based on some gossip, Gambino said, adding, "If the rumor had been about my daughter dating a little boy, I do not think the question would have been asked."
The teacher shouldn't just receive a verbal warning after bullying and shaming students, she "needs to be fired," Gambino stressed.
A fifth-grader in Port St. Lucie, Florida, says she's too embarrassed to show her face in school after a teacher asked — in front of her entire class — if she was in a relationship with a female classmate.
The girl will not return to Northport K-8 School for the rest of the academic year, her mother, Jezenia Gambino told Insider, and will finish the rest of the academic year with homeschooling.
The incident was triggered by a rumor that Gambino's daughter and another girl in her grade were dating, Gambino said, KPTV reported. When the rumor reached the teacher earlier this month, Gambino said she questioned the girls about whether they were in a same-sex relationship — as their whole class watched.
Gambino accused the teacher of using "a tone of anger" when addressing the students, as if they were being "scolded."
Would it have mattered if the girl was thought to be dating a boy?
It's "digusting" for a teacher to confront the girls about their sexuality simply based on some gossip, Gambino told Insider, noting, "If the rumor had been about my daughter dating a little boy, I do not think the question would have been asked."
Gambino said she didn't hear about the episode until her 11-year-old daughter became upset after receiving a text from her friend.
"[Her friend] wasn't sure if they should hang out together anymore because of what happened in school. She didn't want anyone to think they were gay," Gambino told WPTV.
It hasn't been easy for the young girl to adjust to being homeschooled by her mother and grandmother, but Gambino said that on top of feeling "ashamed" and "humiliated," her child was worried that she would be treated differently. The teacher allegedly addressed the class angrily and said "she was in trouble because of the situation," Gambino said, based on what she heard since her daughter was out of school that day.
District officials told KPTV that they reported the teacher's actions to the Florida Department of Education, which gave the teacher a verbal warning.
Lydia Martin, the district's chief communications officer said in a statement to Insider, that the "school district conducted a thorough investigation." She also pointed to a policy against sexual harassment that says the school board "will not tolerate sexual harassment or any other form of illegal harassment by any of its employees, students, volunteers or agents."
'She needs to be fired'
Gambino, however, feels that not enough was done to protect her child and questioned how an investigation into an incident that occurred on January 28 could have been closed the next day.
"What could they have possibly investigated in such a short time frame," she asked.
Moreover, after bullying and shaming two children, the teacher shouldn't just walk away with "a slap on the wrist," Gambino stressed.
"She needs to be fired," she said. "The school isn't setting a good example for their students. The teacher's actions were unacceptable."
According to a Human Rights Watch report released in 2016, public schools can be an "unwelcome" environment for youth who identify as LGBTQ.
"A lack of policies and practices that affirm and support LGBT youth — and a failure to implement protections that do exist — means that LGBT students nationwide continue to face bullying, exclusion, and discrimination in school, putting them at physical and psychological risk and limiting their education," the report said.
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