Teachers accused of mocking special-needs student in voicemail to parent—after forgetting to hang up

Teachers accused of mocking special-needs student in voicemail to parent—after forgetting to hang up
A Pennsylvania mother has filed a federal lawsuit against her daughter's school district, alleging that three teachers were heard ridiculing her daughter — a special-needs student — on a voicemail to the parent in 2015. (Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot)

Talk about your ultra faux pas.

A Pennsylvania mother has filed a federal lawsuit against her daughter’s school district, alleging that three teachers were heard ridiculing her daughter — a special-needs student — on a voicemail to the parent in 2015.

What’s more, the teachers apparently had no idea the voicemail was still in progress, KDKA-TV reported.

That’s right: The mother told WTAE-TV one teacher forgot to hang up the phone and then talked about her daughter for several minutes with other teachers.

“I was shocked when I first heard it,” Beth Suhon, the mother in question, told KDKA. “I had to listen twice.”

Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot
Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot

Suhon’s daughter — who was in fifth grade at the time of the incident — has Turner’s syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that affects a small percentage of girls, KDKA said. Her daughter, now in eighth grade, also suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, the station said.

The lawsuit filed Sunday against McGuffey School District in Claysville alleges intentional discrimination on the basis of disability, KDKA reported. The suit alleged that a Mr. Neundorf, Mrs. Papson, and Mr. Wolf mocked the girl, WTAE reported.

Voices can be heard on the recording, obtained by WTAE, saying the girl’s “teeth are crooked,” that she has “no strengths” and that “she could coal-mine. She could be a good coal miner.”

Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot
Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot

Suhon told KDKA the teachers taught her daughter when she was a Claysville Elementary student and that she spoke to one teacher — Mrs. Papson — over the phone after hearing the voicemail.

“Her response was, ‘Did you ever have one of those days?’” Suhon told the station.

More from KDKA:

In 2012, a plan was created to help Suhon’s daughter with her disability. But in 2014, when her daughter was in fourth grade, the district terminated the plan without letting the parents know.

Suhon noticed her daughter was regressing, but didn’t know why. She didn’t find out what happened until 2015 when the voicemail incident happened. Suhon said she pulled her daughter out of school for a short amount of time.

Suhon added to KDKA that she’d like “the school district to acknowledge they have teachers that obviously need counseling,” that “these teachers put themselves on a pedestal,” and that “they need to be taught how to respect their students.”

Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot
Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot

An administrative law judge who reviewed the case and heard testimony wrote: “The mockery, laughter and derision voiced by the three educators in the voicemail recording is unconscionable … [i]t is nearly unfathomable, and frankly heart-breaking, to gauge that the speakers on that recording are educators working with 10 year old children, and are particularly discussing some of those children who clearly have significant disabilities,” WTAE reported.

The district didn’t respond to KDKA’s request for comment.

Suhon added to KDKA that her house is up for sale and that she plans on moving out of the district as soon as possible.