Lawsuit claims Fresno Unified teacher called student gay slurs

FRESNO, Calif.

Joseph Torres is now 8 years old. His mother told Action News when he was 5, his teacher at Birney Elementary School attacked him in a hurtful way. Christina Torres says her son has a severe hearing impairment.

"Joseph is more of a child where you have to work with him a lot more to get out what it is," said Torres. "He hears you, he comprehends you. Somewhere along the way, he loses it."

The family says they chose the school because they hoped staff members there would help nurture his growth. But they're now sharing how a teacher with the district picked on their son and even called him two gay slurs.

"It was terrifying because from the moment she went to evaluate my son I could feel she didn't care for my son," added Torres.

For several months Torres says Rosie Wasser, Joseph's teacher, would comment on the boy's long hair.

"She would ask me about his hair, pushing it back because it was in his mouth. So I braided the hair for him but that was still not good enough. She made fun of him saying it was girly you braided his hair," said Torres.

Torres says the situation escalated in a classroom in February 2011 when the children were playing a game and singing a song.

A police report details how witnesses including a teacher's aide said she heard Wasser, who was wearing a mic, refer to the child using a gay slur and another derogatory word starting with the letter "F."

The family's attorney says they have filed a lawsuit because they believe no child should ever be treated that way.

"Joseph is hearing impaired. He needs more attention, more care. He needs kinder, better people teaching him," said Mark Coleman.

In the report Wasser denied making those claims. No one from the Fresno Unified School District would comment on the case, but a spokesperson confirmed Wasser was removed from the school but still teaches with the district.

A trial date has been set for May 19.

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