Sexual Abuse Victim Says School Board Knew Miami Teacher Had History of "Grooming" Students

In February 2017, Miami-Dade Police arrested Bernardo Osorio, a decorated math teacher at Cutler Bay Senior High, and charged him with sexually abusing an underage student. The school district quickly fired Osorio and issued a statement condemning his behavior.

"The allegations made against the employee are unacceptable and inexcusable, and the school district will not tolerate such behavior," spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said at the time.

But a new lawsuit from Osorio's victim says the district failed to discipline the teacher after another student made similar abuse allegations years earlier. The complaint, filed earlier this month in Miami-Dade circuit court, accuses the school board of failing to protect students from Osorio's abuse.

"We cannot have these types of incidents occurring in our schools," the victim's lawyer, Phillip Mitchell, tells New Times. "The school board has a duty to protect our children, and whenever there's a breach of that duty, they're going to have to be held accountable."

John Schuster, a spokesman for the school district, declined to comment on the earlier accusations against the teacher or the claims the school board failed to prevent further abuse. But Schuster condemned Osorio's behavior.

"The allegations against this former employee are abhorrent and reprehensible, and run contrary to the professional manner we expect of all our employees," he wrote in a statement. "Since this is a pending legal matter, we are prevented from commenting any further."

According to Mitchell, the sexual abuse of his client — who isn't named in the lawsuit as a minor victim of sexual crime — began in 2015. The abuse continued into the following school year, eventually escalating to rape of the student, who was still a minor. Some of the abuse took place outside the classroom, the complaint says, although Osorio also abused the student during school hours and inside the classroom.

Osorio — who had previously been named Miami's Teacher of the Year by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation in 2008 — pleaded guilty to three lesser charges of child abuse in May 2018. Court records show he was sentenced to ten years of probation.

But according to the new complaint, Osorio should have been stopped years ago. Miami-Dade County Public Schools couldn't immediately provide details about the previous accusations against Osorio, but the lawsuit says another student had reported the teacher for "inappropriate sexual contact" years before 2015. In that instance, Mitchell says, Osorio was never disciplined, retrained, or placed under supervision.

"[The] school board knew or should have known that the conduct by the teacher, which it documented in its own files and was evident by his behavior in school, exhibited elements of a predatory pedophile who had a propensity for 'grooming' targets for his inappropriate conduct," the complaint says.

Mitchell says his client filed the lawsuit to hold the district accountable.

"Clearly, we want the school board to take measures to keep this from happening again," he says. "Certain policies and procedures could have been implemented by the school board that would have prevented it, but they haven't been."
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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb