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Boca Raton Middle School teacher fired for 'inappropriate interactions' with students

Victor Lopez put students in chokeholds, gave them insensitive nicknames, school district investigation finds
Boca Raton Community Middle School sign at night
Posted at 11:41 PM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 22:43:40-04

BOCA RATON, Fla.  — A Boca Raton Community Middle School teacher was fired Wednesday for what the school district said were "inappropriate interactions" with students just one year on the job.

"School has many benefits. It should not be an intimidating place for anybody," said Lori Kaniuk, a parent reacting to the news.

Kaniuk has a student at a different school, Don Estridge High Tech Middle School.

This after math teacher Victor Lopez was reported to be flicking and shoving students at times, even putting them in chokeholds.

"I don't think any child should ever be touched, even in a joking manner," Kaniuk said. "It definitely crosses the line. It could hurt a child."

A school district investigation led to 16 students reporting Lopez gave them nicknames that some said were insensitive to their appearances, such as "four-eyes," "Oompa Loompa" and "Beavis."

Boca Raton Community Middle School sign at dusk

Twelve of the 16 students interviewed reported inappropriate physical contact.

Eight of the 16 students interviewed reported inappropriate comments and/or humor.

"A child probably doesn't feel comfortable speaking up and it puts them in a position where they have to against the teacher, and that could affect their grades and success going forward," Kaniuk said.

In an email to the School District of Palm Beach County, Lopez wrote:

"Honestly, the only thing I should be questioned on is my sarcasm. The difference this year is that I made the conscious effort to use methods that would make sure students felt safe, cared for and that I created an atmosphere where kids really wanted to learn...with an authentic feel to it. I teach middle schoolers. I love what I do. If I have to adjust, and not use social media or TV movie or meme usage of our time, then so be it. Trying to have fun with the kids and promoting a learning environment is my ultimate goal."

Lopez's termination is effective Oct. 18 unless he appeals in writing. He begins an unpaid suspension Thursday.

If he appeals, his suspension remains in effect until the appeals process is finished.

According to school district investigative documents, Lopez was suspended for 10 days from Loggers Run Middle School — the previous school where he worked — in October 2021 for "striking or tapping students playfully with a yardstick."

The state attorney's office chose not to prosecute that case.