NM teacher's aide tapes mouth of autistic student

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Associated Press

Posted on October 19, 2013 at 10:35 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 20 at 12:01 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A high school teacher's aide in New Mexico is back from administrative leave following an investigation into her taping the mouth of a special needs student.

The incident occurred last month at Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque, according to KOB-TV (http://bit.ly/1cGyZHv ).

The station reported that a 10th-grade student who's autistic and uses a wheelchair was meowing like a cat while on a field trip with his special education class. The aide reportedly told the boy that if he didn't stop, she'd placed tape over his mouth.

After the class returned to school, the boy allegedly kept making noises so the aide applied several pieces of scotch tape over his upper and lower lips in an attempt to silence him.

The Albuquerque Public Schools district put the aide on leave for three weeks, one of which was unpaid, and a letter of reprimand was also placed in the aide's personnel file.

The principal explained to the staff that the district completed a personnel investigation and met with the boy's family.

"We are just as disturbed by it as anyone else," Monica Armenta, executive director of the district's communications department, said of the aide's actions. "It isn't acceptable, and it isn't tolerated."

"I think she should have had more sense than harming a child like that," said Theresa Aragon, a grandparent of a Rio Grande student. "I believe it's abuse — physical abuse, and mental abuse."

The Albuquerque Journal reported that the teacher's assistant denied taping shut the boy's mouth, but declined further comment.

The classroom teacher, who also was placed on leave after the Sept. 24 incident, said the aide "playfully" placed a strip of tape on the boy's upper lip.

Other school employees reported the matter to Rio Grande's assistant principal for special needs, who immediately notified district headquarters.

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