Teachers Fired for Reporting Abuse, Lawsuit Claims

Two teachers said they were told to keep their mouths shut over an abuse claim.

ByAlyssa Newcomb
November 09, 2011, 10:39 AM

Nov. 9, 2011— -- Two teachers, including a former teacher of the year, are suing the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami, claiming they were fired for reporting suspected sex abuse involving the principal and a seventh grade girl.

Chanell Morello and Lynn Hoffman immediately contacted the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Miami Archdiocese after the student made Morello aware of an incident allegedly involving St. Anthony Catholic School principal Norma Kramer.

The principal lifted the student's skirt, "exposing her bare buttocks and genital area to a school employee and another student," according to the complaint.

The suit is in contrast to the turmoil at Penn State University, where two officials face criminal charges and football coach Joe Paterno has resigned for not reporting suspected acts of sex abuse against boys to police. The university president will also be ousted, sources told ABC News.

"This is all about protecting kids," said Jeff Herman, a lawyer for the two dismissed teachers. "These women did just that, even though it cost them their jobs."

The Catholic school student allegedly victimized went to Morello last year "crying and shaking" and told her what happened immediately after incident, according to the complaint.

Morello, who had been teaching for five years, consulted veteran teacher Lynn Hoffman, a former nun, about the girl's claim.

"I felt as if I could be sick to my stomach," Hoffman said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Hoffman confronted Kramer, who she said admitted to the incident.

"She told us she was probably going to be taken out in handcuffs," Hoffman said.

Despite contacting the archdiocese, nothing was done to address the incident, the women said.

"They were told during the year that if they didn't keep quiet, they'd have a problem," said Herman, who has dealt with previous lawsuits against the archdiocese.

The Miami Archdiocese sent ABCNews.com a statement saying it has not seen the lawsuit and is unable to comment, but stressed that the diocese requires "mandatory reporting of inappropriate behavior."

Mark Riordan, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families, said, "We had full cooperation of the archdiocese in our investigation. However, the findings can not be released without a court order. Our investigation was closed within a 60-day period."

At the end of the school year, the two teachers were given pink slips, something Herman said never would have happened if they hadn't reported the alleged abuse.

"Lynn Hoffman is a former teacher of the year and just before the incident, Chanell Morello was given a glowing review," said Herman. "These are two teachers who were dedicated and cared deeply about their students."

Both women have been unable to find teaching jobs since being let go from their positions.

St. Anthony Catholic School declined ABCNews.com's request for comment, but confirmed that Kramer was no longer working at the school.

Morello and Hoffman are seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

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