APS whistleblower speaks out about mouth taping incident

Posted at: 10/29/2013 11:04 PM
By: Maria Guerrero, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Most people would agree APS staff member Pam Hall did the right thing.

She reported an incident in which another teacher’s aide taped a special-needs student’s mouth shut in class.

Hall is speaking out for the first time.

She says her life at work since reporting this has been miserable.

So miserable she asked to be transferred to another APS school.

Hall says she’s emailed the district’s superintendent and hasn’t heard back.

She also says the teacher she used to work for won’t even talk to her.

"I just want the story to be out there so it doesn't happen to the next person. If you see something, report it. And hopefully you will not be retaliated against," said Hall.

But retaliation is exactly what Hall claims APS and Rio Grande High School did to her after she reported what fellow teacher’s aide Dolores Lopez did to student Augustin Reynoso.

The 16-year-old with cerebral palsy wouldn’t stop making noises in class last month.

“[Lopez] took four pieces of scotch tape and taped from under his nose to under his chin," said Hall.

Lopez doesn’t deny she taped Reynoso’s mouth shut, but says it was done in a “playful act.”

“No, it was not playful,” said Hall. “No doubt in my mind and the student was going like this as she was trying to put it on."

The teen claims the same thing and says he felt “sad” when it was happening.

Hall reported the incident and says Rio Grande High School acted immediately, suspending both Lopez and the teacher.

But Hall says she then paid the price.

Lopez was suspended for three weeks and was allowed to return to the same classroom as the boy.

APS removed Lopez after KOB Eyewitnes News 4 reported it, and called it “a mistake.”

Hall says, when Lopez returned to the classroom, she was moved out.

"They said they have the right to move any educational assistant any time if they feel like it's not the right fit. So I was no longer the right fit," she said.

Hall says the teacher ignored her requests to go to the classroom to gather her things.

Instead KOB obtained an email from Principal Yvonne Garcia which tells Hall to instead make a list and someone will get her things for her.

KOB approached APS Superintendent Winston Brooks with Hall’s story, where she claims being ostracized by the teacher, by the teacher’s aide and Rio Grande High School.

To that, Brooks replied, “I don't believe that. I don't believe that at all."

Fed up, Hall asked to be transferred to another APS school, but she says she wants to come back to Rio Grande to continue helping at-risk students.

"These kids trust me, and they really care about me and I really, really care about them," she said.

To her employer, Hall says this:

“I don't think it's fair that I was the one that was singled out when I reported such a horrible incident. It's not fair. And I still feel aps needs to apologize to me for giving me no support and for retaliating against me."

New Mexico Public Education Department & New Mexico Higher Education Department is now investigating the taping incident.

The department says to its knowledge APS did not initially report the incident, which the district is supposed to do.

The department has filed a “notice of contemplated action” against Lopez and could try to take her educational license away.