Teacher Accused of Abusing Student Says He's Not Guilty and Detectives Agree
Last updated 10/20/2022 at 11:14pm
WEEKI WACHEE - On Friday, R News was first to report the removal of a substitute teacher from Winding Waters K-8, after a student made allegations that he inappropriately touched her.
School officials notified parents on Thursday and stated the following: This afternoon, Winding Waters administration was made aware of student's allegations of inappropriate touching by a substitute teacher in a middle grade classroom. School administration immediately escorted the substitute from the campus and referred the incident to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office for investigation. Substitutes are employees of Kelly Services and Kelly Services will also conduct and immediate and thorough investigation into the matter. The substitute will not be permitted to return to any Hernando school, pending the outcome of the investigation. Thank you for your attention.
News of the incident spread quickly across social media, and that led to deluge of hostile comments from angry parents all over Hernando County – rightfully so – if the allegations are true. Not long after the report, R News began receiving messages from people who claim to know the suspect and they say he is innocent.
66-year-old Hector Escobar is a long-time music teacher who has worked for several schools throughout his career, including West Hernando Christian Academy and Cornerstone Foundation Academy in Tampa. Escobar says, "I don't need to work, I'm retired. I do it because I love to teach and because I genuinely see teaching as a mission from God." Escobar is a devout Christian who says he lives a clean life and is dedicated to serving God.
Escobar reached out to R News to tell his side of the story, and during an interview on Saturday, Escobar explained that while teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in his 6th period music class, a group of 8th grade girls began acting up and being disruptive. Escobar sent the group to the office, so he could continue teaching the other children, but he soon received a call from the Assistant Principal, Jenny de Armas, who told him she was sending the students back to his class. Escobar says, "Here I am trying to teach a play to the children who are so interested in performing and taking part in the play, but the same group just started talking and talking - I kept pleading with the girls to please stop and be quiet, but they refused to listen." Escobar goes on to explain, "Finally the bell rings and they rush out the door and then one of the girls yells 'I'll see you Mr. pervert' and I replied, 'What did you say? That is grounds for suspension.'" Escobar says all the girls ran into the bathroom and that's when he called the Assistant Principal to come help with the situation, but she never came.
A few minutes later, Escobar says he saw the School Resource Officer (SRO) walking towards him with Principal Cari O'Rourke. Escobar says they led him into a classroom and the Principal told him, "You're going to have to leave Mr. Escobar, because there have been some allegations against you?" Escobar responded, "What allegations? What am I being accused of?" They proceeded to take his badge and escorted him off the property, without explanation.
Escobar called his supervisor with Kelly Services to try to find out what the allegations were, and he was told that one of the 8th grade girls accused him of touching her and pulling her hair. Escobar says he was shocked because he sits behind his piano all day and doesn't walk around the class.
The following day, Escobar says two detectives conducted an interview with him at his home. That's when Escobar says he learned that his classroom had surveillance cameras and that it disproved the girl's accusations. Escobar says the detectives told him, "We feel sorry for you, because we saw the video and we don't see a crime." Escobar says they expressively told him, "Don't worry about anything, you're in the clear."
I asked Escobar if he holds any grudges against the girl or any of the staff at the school and he said, "No, not at all. I forgive her and I know the staff had to follow protocol when allegations like that are made." Escobar says he probably won't be going back to teach at Winding Waters, because the incident is just too sensitive, and he doesn't want to cause further disruption.
R News reached out to the Hernando County School District and the Sheriff's Office, but they have not responded to confirm Escobar's claims or comment on the case.
If the claims against Escobar are false, it is unknown if disciplinary action will be taken against his accuser.
Studies show that 1 in 6 teachers will face some kind of false allegations against them during their career, and that most of them will be male teachers. The #metoo movement's motto is that all accusations of abuse against women should be "believed," and to arrest first and ask questions later. For men, the stigma of being falsely accused often never goes away, leaving their reputation tarnished and making it nearly impossible to find employment. But women are not immune to false accusations.
In an almost identical case as Hector Escobar's, Jacksonville teacher of the year, 60-year-old Caroline Lee was arrested on child abuse charges in 2021. The report states that a student at Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts accused Lee of slapping her in the face and causing her nose to bleed. But just last week, the State Attorney's Office dropped the case, citing lack of video evidence, a lack of witnesses and the assertion that the student may have had the motivation to make up the story. They stopped short of stating her accuser lied about the incident.
Surveillance video is what Escobar says probably prevented him from being arrested and having his life ruined. He believes cameras should be in every classroom, especially those that have children with behavioral or mental disabilities.
Escobar says he has no intention of taking legal action against the school or his accuser.