Teacher resigns after accused of taping student to desk

Published 5:31 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2016

By Rebecca Rider


SALISBURY — A third-grade teacher at Knollwood Elementary has resigned after an incident in the classroom, the Rowan-Salisbury School System says.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said in an e-mailed press release that the teacher was accused of using tape to confine a 9-year-old student to his desk, wrapping the tape around the desk so the student couldn’t get up.

The child’s mother, Lynda Santamaria, reported Friday her son was taped to his desk, and that the teacher allegedly had done this on multiple occasions before.

Santamaria said her daughter, a fifth-grader at Knollwood, told her about the incident.

“Obviously it’s something that I didn’t believe at first,” she said.

But a classmate of her son caught several of the moments on video, using a school-issued iPad. When Santamaria watched the recordings, she said, she started crying.

“At that point in time, I was very upset,” she said.

The Sheriff’s Office said the videos show “what appears to be masking tape” attached to one side of the student’s desk. The tape wrapped around the student’s chair and was secured on the other side of the desk.

“I describe it as like a crime scene, I can’t think of any other way to describe it,” Santamaria said.

She said there was a third video, showing tape wrapped around her son’s abdomen so he couldn’t get out of the chair, but she believes it was deleted from the classmate’s iPad.

“At present, no evidence has been found to show that tape was put on the victim’s body at any place, but was always attached to the victim’s desk or chair,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

When Santamaria asked her son why he didn’t tell her about the incident, he told her “he was used to it,” and that his teacher was always telling students not to tattle-tale.

“So . . . he thought that this was a normal thing, he thought that this was ok,” she said.

Santamaria said that because of her son’s wording, she believes taping was a common occurrence, but she – and the Sheriff’s Office – only have evidence that it occurred between May 10 and 13.

She told deputies she reported the taping incidents to the Knollwood’s principal, Shonda Hairston, and met with her on Friday and Monday. Santamaria initially reported the incident to the school system, but decided to file a report Friday afternoon.

The teacher resigned Tuesday and the Sheriff’s Office reports she will not face charges.

“The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office cannot charge a school employee for an offense committed on a student while they are at school, unless the District Attorney’s office provides written approval. The facts of this case were presented to the DA’s Office this morning and at present, it was their determination that no probable cause was found for any criminal offense to charge the victim’s teacher with,” the release said.

Charging a school employee while they are at school is forbidden by NCGS 15A-301 (b1), which states that school employees cannot be charged or arrested “for an offense that occurred while the school employee was in the process of discharging his or her duties of employment, without the prior written approval of the district attorney or the district attorney’s designee.”

But Santamaria said if she can’t press criminal charges, she’ll file a civil suit.

The incident is still under investigation, and the Sheriff’s Office said the teacher in question has hired an attorney. Santamaria said she was disappointed that the teacher was allowed to resign instead of being fired. She said that, despite several apologies from the school, no justification was ever given for why the teacher allegedly taped her son to the desk.

Since the incident, Santamaria said her son has faced bullying at school, and said other children have told him the incident was his fault.

“I feel like he doesn’t deserve this,” she said.

Her son normally enjoys school, she said, but she plans on keeping him home Thursday. Santamaria will be paying more attention to what her children tell her about school, and encourages other parents to do the same. She’ll also be talking to them about what to do when someone crosses a boundary.

“I don’t tell my children enough that hey, this is not right . . . so that’s going to change,” she said.

 Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.