Police find no crime; Aurora 2nd-grade teacher says students asked her to tape their mouths

Parents: Teacher led taped students to library

AURORA, Colo. - Police say they found no evidence that an Aurora second-grade teacher committed a crime by placing tape on her talkative students' mouths, after the teacher said it was a joke and others confirmed several children laughed and asked to have their mouths taped.

Yet, three parents and a tearful student complained to 7NEWS about the incident and one of the parent's kept her daughter home on Friday. The teacher, who was not identified, has been placed on paid administrative leave while Aurora Public Schools officials review the incident.  

A police officer was called to Fulton Academy at 4:10 p.m. Thursday after at least one parent called police a possible child abuse incident.

--Teacher had problems with kids talking, joking around all year--

The Fulton Academy teacher told the officer she'd had problems with her students keeping quiet all year long and that "she placed tape on all 28 children's mouths in the class as a joke and all the children liked it," according to a police report.

The teacher said she placed a small piece of Scotch tape vertically on the children's mouths, the report said.

However, the three parents and a girl from the class told 7NEWS' Amanda Kost the teacher used clear packing tape to seal shut the students' mouths and led them to the library that way.

A mother and her daughter said that when the teacher led the students into the library with their mouths sealed, a librarian saw them and apparently thought it was funny.

--Girl says tape made it hard to breathe--

But the girl, named Gisela, told 7NEWS it was scary.

"I took it seriously, because I couldn't breathe...cause it was like covering your mouth and your nose. And then, if you don't have those two things uncovered, you can't breathe," said Gisela. The girl's mother, Sonia, only wanted her and her daughter identified by their first names.

"I started to take it off," Gisela said. "But then, the librarian came back and said, 'Put it back on because we want you to be silent.'" Gisela's mother kept the girl home Friday because of the incident.

The teacher, however, said the students "speak all the time and joke around" when they go to the library. So when the class was getting ready to go to the class at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, the teacher said she jokingly told them "maybe if I taped your mouths shut that would keep you quiet," the report said.

"Some of the children laughed and asked to get their mouths taped shut," the teacher told the officer. The teacher added that "this was for the school librarian to enjoy mainly and she did not think anything bad about placing tape on the children's mouths," the report said.

The teacher told the officer when the students returned to the classroom about 3 p.m., "they were still laughing and in a good mood...and the children wanted to leave the tape on," according to the police report.

After Gisela told her mother what happened, they both went to the school office, where the mother ask for an explanation. School officials said the incident was a "joke," Sonia recalled.

"That's no joke," the mother said she told school staff.

"That's not funny," Gisela also told staffers.

The officer interviewed the teacher with school Principal Jill Lliteras present.

--Principal: Not a good idea to tape mouths even as a prank--

Lliteras told the officer placing tape on the children's mouths did not violate school policy, "however she thought even placing tape as a prank on the mouths of children was not a good idea."

The teacher was in tears during the interview and said, "She looks at the children as her own and she would never do anything to hurt a child," according to the report.

A father told 7NEWS that his daughter said all the children were talking in class and wouldn't stop, so the teacher taped their mouths. The dad said his daughter is fine, but thought the taping was weird.

The officer went to the home of the mother who'd complained to police that her daughter had "her mouth taped shut by the teacher," the report said.

The mother "stated in a negative way that all 28 children had their mouths tapped (sic) shut to keep them quiet. She did not acknowledge that the incident could have been done for humor and the children wanted it to happen," the officer wrote in the report.

The woman's daughter indicated with her fingers the students' mouths had been taped horizontally, from corner to corner, the report said.

In response to the officer's questions, the girl said that some children asked the teacher to tape their mouths and they thought it was funny and laughed.

But the girl said the tape hurt her when it was removed. The officer noted that he saw no redness or any sign of injury to the girl's mouth.

The girl told the officer that she has asthma and people at school knew this because she'd had a prior asthma attack at school.

--Girl's allergic to tape, lips could have swelled up--

The girl said she didn't have an asthma attack during the taping incident. But someone told the officer that the girl's "lips could have swelled up because she is allergic to tape and this could have caused a medical incident to occur," the report said. Names were blacked out in the report, so it's hard to tell if the mother or daughter told the officer this.

The investigating officer conferred with Crimes Against Children unit supervisors and they agreed that "there were no documented injuries or intent to commit a crime." The supervisors also agreed with the officer that, "There was no probable cause to make an arrest for the elements of the crimes for children neglect and/or child abuse."

Aurora Public Schools sent 7NEWS a statement that said it wouldn't discuss the case, but that the district takes the allegations seriously.

"We want to emphasize that Aurora Public Schools takes student safety and parental feedback seriously," the statement said. "Due to privacy laws, we are unable to discuss these allegations specifically. When we receive allegations of this nature, we immediately contact the police, begin our own investigation and possibly place the staff member on administrative leave during the investigation."