The parents of 9-year-old Diego Ortega say their son was bullied by his fourth-grade science teacher at Katherine Gallegos Elementary in Los Lunas, New Mexico (video below).
"He was starting to make excuses, [saying,] 'My head hurts, my stomach hurts,' [and] crying in the morning" Diego's mother, Alexandria Lente, told KRQE.
Lente said the teacher gave a lesson about bullying, and then humiliated her son.
"He called my son out to the classroom, and asked the classroom to write an essay on Diego being a bully," Lente added.
"I didn’t like that so I started crying," Diego recalled.
The students' essays called Diego rude and noted his alleged bullying; Diego wrote his essay about the teacher bullying him.
The boy was in tears when Lente picked him up from school, and the principal allegedly told the upset mom that the assignment was OK.
Diego's parents pulled him from the school a few weeks later, and began homeschooling him. Currently, the boy attends a different school in the area where he is said to be doing well.
"You figure your kid is safe at school with teachers, yet you have teachers that are picking on your kids," Lente stated.
The family's lawyer, Ed Meintzer, said in a statement to KRQE that he filed a public-information request to get copies of the essays under the state's Inspection of Public Records Act, but the Los Lunas School District did not give a timely response.
"The Los Lunas School District spent a year’s worth of unnecessary attorneys fees paid for by the taxpayers hiding the fact that they ignored the Ortegas' IPRA request contrary [to] the statutory purpose of transparency, which cost the Ortegas over $20,000 in unnecessary attorney's fees," the statement read.
The school district refused to comment on the essays or the family's pending lawsuit.
Mario Koran, a reporter for the Voice of San Diego, suggested that parents who suspect a teacher or other school employee is bullying their child should talk to other parents to see if their children are having similar experiences. He also suggested documenting incidents with dates and specific examples, reaching out to the teacher or school staff member, speaking to the principal, talking to and/or filing a complaint with the school board, filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (in cases of discrimination) and/or calling a news reporter.