Fatima Ptacek, the 15-year-old actress who voices Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer, reportedly got suspended from school after being caught vaping inside one of the institution’s bathrooms.
Fatima, who attends Avenues: The World School in Manhattan, allegedly got caught vaping in the school’s bathroom with two of her fellow students last December, the New York Daily News reports. Ptacek got suspended by the school for three days. The other student she got caught with, however, was expelled and forced to enroll in a new school mid-year. The third student was the luckiest one as she was not punished at all.
The parents of the 14-year-old former student who got expelled by the school filed a lawsuit Monday, claiming that Avenues: The World School in Manhattan gave Ptacek special treatment on account of her reputation as the voice actress for Dora the Explorer.
The parents claimed in the lawsuit that their daughter wanted to appear cool to her friend and the Dora actress, which was why she was easily peer-pressured into smoking “caramel-flavoured water through a vapour pen” with them inside the school’s bathroom.
The suit also claims that Fatima and their daughter denied the incident at first because they were “overwhelmed by fear.” The parents, Nadia Leonelli and Fredrik Sundwal, added that their child had never got into trouble even once before she met the Dora the Explorer voice actress.
“The fact that F.P. is a known actress for being the voice of Dora Explorer may have played a role in why she was ultimately not expelled even after the school threatened as much, and M.S. was expelled instead
as a scapegoat,” wrote the parents in their lawsuit.
As mentioned in the lawsuit, the parents reportedly want their daughter to be reinstated into the school and are seeking $40,000 in damages to cover tuition payments and legal fees. They’ve reportedly spent $10,000 in legal fees to contest the school’s “inappropriate decision” and haven’t received a refund for their $40,000 tuition despite their daughter being suspended mid-year.
School spokesperson Bruce Bobbin declined to comment on the case, saying that all disciplinary matters being handled by the institution are treated privately.
“Matters involving litigation and discipline of students are private and confidential,” said the school’s spokesperson.
Ptacek reportedly wrote a “confession note” following the incident, claiming that the vaping pen was given to her by a male student. Her publicist hasn’t responded to calls for comment.
In an interview with She Said Media Said, Ptacek said that Dora was one of her heroes growing up. When Fatima auditioned for the role, she didn’t know that she was auditioning for Dora the Explorer.
“It was titled ‘Secret Project’ so I originally had no idea, which a lot of people don’t know about actually,” she said.
“I basically went in and they gave me a script on the spot and they said, ‘Read these lines and have a song prepared.’ So I sang the song ‘Grenade’ by Bruno Mars and then I read the lines, and the lines looked oddly familiar. But of course, I thought that they were just re-using lines or something. I had no idea that it was actually for that role. So then I got a callback and again I did some lines and did the song and then I got a third callback to read a couple more lines and I actually got to meet some people from the Dora crew. They tested my voice on a microphone and how comfortable I was with being in a booth as opposed to being in front of a camera, which is exactly what I’m used to. I think it was done to five or so girls, and a couple of hours later I got a call and they said, ‘Well, you are the voice of Dora the Explorer!’ I was screaming. I had no idea. I was ecstatic.”
Fatima Ptacek started out as a commercial model and appeared in numerous national magazines before she hit it big as the voice actress for the beloved Dora. At 12-years-old, Ptakec performed in the Oscar-award-winning 19-minute short Curfew.
[Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images]