SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - A teacher's nickname for a local third-grade student has sparked an investigation and questions of cultural insensitivity.
The Seminole County School District began looking into the teacher after the boy's parents complained that the nickname is offensive.
A report released from the district to the Behbood family, of Lake Mary, says that teacher admitted to using the nickname, "Abu Dobby" or "Abi-Dabi," for their multi-cultural third-grader.
"In recess, the other kids started making fun of me about it," said 8-year-old Andy Behbood, a student at Crystal Lake Elementary School.
Andy's dad, Pooya Behbood, told Local 6, "Right now, thinking of that word, I feel absolutely sickened that my son, at the age of 8, was being racially slurred."
"The nickname she used is "Abi-Dabi," which to me is obviously a middle eastern term," said Michelle Behbood, Andy's mom.
The teacher under investigation, Maureen Dobbins, is a behavior resource teacher -- the adult who children are supposed to go to when they feel bullied.
Since kindergarten, Andy Behbood never told anyone how he felt when she called him "Abi-Dabi" and then, one day, his mom finally heard it for herself.
"I got a sinking feeling in my stomach, that's not right. He looked like he was about to cry," said Michelle Behbood. "She didn't think she did anything wrong. When I approached her the day it happened, she didn't show any regret or remorse."
So, the family complained to the district.
The final complaint report said that teacher's "nicknames for students should be reconsidered and if continued... nicknames should be approved by the parent/guardian." The report also calls the nickname an "insensitive choice."
The report said Dobbins told school investigators she uses nicknames to build a rapport with students. But Andy's parents said she failed to see how it affected their son.
Even though the teacher apologized several times, the family thinks those apologies were not sincere.
A district representative said because school is out for the summer, it is unclear if that teacher will be punished, but the report suggests she might need additional training in cultural sensitivity.
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