Did This Teacher Cross the Line?

Act 5: Cynthia Ambrose was accused of ordering her kindergarten students to hit another student.
3:00 | 02/14/14

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Transcript for Did This Teacher Cross the Line?
The mom has a phrase for it, ordering a hit. But that recently took an all-new meaning when a Texas teacher was accused of ordering kids literally hit a fellow student, a 6-year-old, who will you believe? The teacher or the kids? Here's John Quinones. Reporter: Were you loud at the kids? I'm loud. Reporter: Cynthia ambrose is a kindergarten teacher who earned a reputation for being "The enforcer" at Salinas elementary in San Antonio. Known for the cup of ice chips that she kept on her desk, some say she was just as infamous for a kind of ice water coursing through her veins. Were you tough on the kids? If they were in trouble, time out. Reporter: But, now, it's the teacher who's being given the time-out for the first time in her 11-year career for an incident that would not only cost her job, but land her in a court of law. Do you miss those kids in the classroom? So bad. She was very mean to everybody. All the kids were scared of her. She misunderstood what was appropriate in disciplining a child. Reporter: How would you describe her? As having crossed a line that no teacher should cross. It was supposed to be a teachable moment. And it just, you know, backfired on me. Reporter: Aiden Neely may not look like a bully as he tackles those monkey bars, but that's exactly how school officials painted him when he attended kindergarten at Salinas elementary back in may of 2012. Hey, buddy, how are you? Good. Reporter: I'm John. When I recently met Aiden he was, by all appearances, a polite, poised, perfectly behaved little boy. When you grow up, what do you want to be? A football player. Reporter: But back on that spring morning, Aiden's teacher Barbara Ramirez received complaints Aiden was bullying other students. So she took him directly to Cynthia ambrose for a healthy dose of her trademark "Tough love." Miss Ramirez walked into my classroom, upset, talking about how he had punched some girls and kicked some boys. And I was like, "What do you want me to do?" I said, "Do you want me to scare him?" Reporter: In keeping with her M.O., she takes discipline to a whole new level. She stands Aiden in front of the class, and makes an outrageous appeal to her students. . I turned around and said, does want to show him what it feels like? I was expecting my class to say, "Yes." And I turned to Aiden, "You see, would you want your friends to hit you?" Reporter: Sure enough, a student took the dare and suddenly 6-year-old Aiden was under assault. It happened so fast that next thing I know, I hear this hit. Reporter: Aiden's mom, Amy is horrified by what she says happens next. Miss ambrose took it upon herself to have her kids line up and hit Aiden. Some in the face. Some in the back. Some on his head. Reporter: Word spread, and ambrose suddenly found herself in the principal's office. Had to call H.R. And that's when I started crying. Because I knew I was done. Reporter: An angry mother hit back. My stomach was in knots. But the boy's mom's says that is not enough. Reporter: Talking to any news organization who would listen. This teacher is going to be back in the school system and teaching other students. Reporter: Ambrose was ultimately suspended and left Salinas elementary. But that wasn't enou district attorney Susan reed. We have not had a case like this before. And, I felt it was imperative that the state speak up about it. Reporter: In June, ambrose was put on trial, accused of encouraging multiple students to hit Aiden that day. But if you think ambrose was about to fall on her sword, think again. Reporter: How many kids hit him? That I know of -- one. Reporter: Only one? That's a far cry from what Aiden Neely would tell a sympathetic jury. He was the prosecution's star witness. Do you remember other kids getting up and slapping you in the back? Yes. Okay. Do you remember how many kids did it? Mm, I think, like, 21. Reporter: The prosecution also called the only other adult eyewitness -- that teacher who brought Aiden to ambrose's class that day, Barbara Ramirez, and she had her own damning account. Then that's when she announced, she said, "Come on boys and girls, let's line up and let's bully Aiden." Did miss ambrose say anything when she saw the students hitting Aiden? That's when she said, "Come on, let's hit him harder." Reporter: Did you say those things? You were not expecting them to do that? No! Reporter: Are you sorry you said that? Big time. I wish I could take that back. Reporter: Is Cynthia now lying? Yes. She scared him. She humiliated him. Reporter: No chance that this could've been misconstrued, that maybe it was a misunderstanding by a kindergarten student? I think the misunderstanding was on the part of miss ambrose. She misunderstood what was appropriate in disciplining a child. Reporter: During the trial, ambrose says she'd visit the church adjacent to the courthouse, the once-unbending disciplinarian, on bended knee. Everybody kept praying and saying, you know, "Have faith in god. The truth will come out." Reporter: But the truth, in the jury's eyes, took less than an hour to find. After only 36 minutes of deliberation, they found Cynthia ambrose guilty of "Official oppression" -- a class "A" misdemeanor in Texas. They don't believe that you were telling the truth. Why should we? I just know that I didn't order a hit. Reporter: The judge, however, didn't buy ambrose's story. This is absolutely a parent's worst nightmare. They send their children to you and they trust you. Reporter: In August, ambrose was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years probation, ensuring that she won't be able to teach again in Texas for at least that long. I love what I do. I love it. But it's not worth it. This has broken me. Reporter: Does Aiden ever talk about what happened that day anymore? Sometimes he'll come up to me and say, "Mommy, why'd you leave me in that classroom?" Reporter: And, because of that, Amy says she pulled Aiden out of Salinas elementary school. He's now at a new school with new teachers and new friends. Reporter: And people are nice in this school. Yes. The other school -- people being mean to me. Reporter: You've said that you want Cynthia ambrose to never teach again? Yes. She doesn't need to be around any children. Reporter: Is she a monster? I don't think she's a monster. I mean, I -- she just made the wrong call that day. After John's first report on this, Cynthia ambrose was granted a new trial the judge saying the jury in her case had been improperly instructed. Prosecutors in San Antonio are now appealing that ruling. The ♪

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