The mother of an 8-year-old Arizona girl whose daughter was presented with a "Catastrophe Award" for having the most homework excuses in the class fired back against those criticizing her for poor parenting.
Christina Valdez first told ABC affiliate KGUN-TV that her third grade daughter, Cassandra Garcia, received the controversial award from her teacher in front of her classmates at the Desert Springs Academy in Tucson, Ariz.
Since the story was first reported, it has sparked a heated discussion online, with thousands weighing in on both sides. Many took issue with the teacher, saying that the award was completely inappropriate, but even more lashed out at the girl's parents, asking why her mom and dad didn't know that their daughter was having problems with her homework in the first place and didn't check on her or take steps to help get her on track.
One commenter on the "Good Morning America" website said she deserves the "Out-of-Touch Mom of the Year" award and others told her to "step up as a parent."
Valdez said she brushed off the harsh comments and insisted that she made sure that her daughter's homework assignments were completed.
"It's not the case that I was MIA. I am there 24-7 with my kids and they do have a routine that they follow with homework and things they have to do around the house," she said, adding that she can only recall three or four times where her daughter's assignments were left uncompleted over the course of the school year.
"There are a few assignments that weren't turned in and that I didn't know of because Cassandra didn't write them in the homework book," she said.
Her daughter had been enrolled in an after-school homework assistance program, where she completed the bulk of her assignments each day, Valdez added.
Valdez said she never imagined the story would "go viral" and that she just wanted an apology.
"All I ever wanted was just an apology, for the principal to acknowledge that [the award] wasn't acceptable … and they have not yet apologized," she said.
A spokesperson from Desert Springs Academy could not be reached for comment for this story. The principal declined to comment to a KGUN reporter, who first covered the story.
Valdez said her daughter is still humiliated by the award, which looked like a colorful card and read: "You're Tops! Catastrophe Award. Awarded to Cassandra Garcia. For Most Excuses for Not Having Homework." The teacher signed the card "Ms. Plowman," added the date - May 18, 2012 - and even included a smiley face.
When she contacted the school to complain, Valdez said the principal told her it was a joke and that, "Some teachers joke around with the students."
Some of Christina's classmates received awards for superlatives such as "Math Wizard" and "Class Clown," Valdez said, but she still didn't find anything funny about her daughter's award.
"If that's the joke, then give her a 'Miss Busybody' Award or 'Most Talkative in Class' or something in that category, not 'Catastrophe Award,'" Valdez said. "I'd rather her not receive any award and pout and complain. It's just ridiculous."
She said it was not the first time her daughter had been singled out by the teacher and reprimanded, but that she never received complaints from previous teachers about her daughter's performance.