A TUSD teacher who taped a second-grader to a chair earlier this month has resigned, admitting to the act but saying it was not done maliciously.
Rather, Ilse Lopez said she was following the instructions of the girl’s mother who told her to “try anything” to get the girl to sit still.
Lopez told Hollinger K-8 Principal Kathy Bolles the girl had a hard time completing tasks and was frequently disruptive — dancing around the classroom, hiding under her desk and sometimes wandering out of the room.
An attorney representing the girl’s family, however, says that the teacher had become frustrated with the students and threatened to tape multiple children to their chairs.
Seven-year-old Mia Cramer’s mother has since reported the incident to Tucson police, claiming Mia was assaulted. No arrests have been made as the investigation is ongoing.
Mia told police that on Aug. 15 she was disciplined after getting out of her seat to sharpen her pencil too many times. She reported that the tape hurt her stomach.
Lopez, who was hired in 2011, told Bolles that she wanted to meet with Mia’s mother to apologize for the incident, according to documents released by the Tucson Unified School District Wednesday.
Lopez told Bolles in a written statement that Mia’s “behavior in the classroom was beyond disruptive” on that particular day.
“She was not able to sit in her (seat); she was opening drawers, moving stuff around the class and constantly sharpening pencils to make them small,” Lopez said. “She was hiding under her desk, dancing around the classroom the entire day. She didn’t finish a single task that was given to her.”
By the afternoon, Lopez says Mia had become so disruptive she sent her to the office, but the girl was sent back with a monitor who told her she needed to “pay attention and listen or they would contact Mom.”
Mia, however, continued on with her behavior, Lopez said.
“Because she was not allowing me to teach or allowing the children to learn, I told her that she was going on a ride,” Lopez said.
Lopez told Mia she would need a belt, which turned out to be tape, to keep her safe and to help her stay seated. Lopez said Mia willingly played the game and that her arms were kept free so she could do her work.
Mia reportedly sat for five minutes before she asked to go to the bathroom and the tape, which children described as a 2-inch, clear tape, was removed.
The tape was not used again and Mia’s day seemed to improve, Lopez said. With the help of Lopez, Mia wrote two sentences — a feat she was proud of. Mia even offered to stay after school to help clean the classroom.
Lopez told Bolles that in the two weeks she had been working with Mia, she tried different management strategies to keep the girl in her seat and to do her work. She also made the Mia’s mother aware of the classroom issues.
According to Lopez, Mia’s mother responded by describing the girl as being stubborn, saying when she is not allowed to do what she wants, she does not let up.
Other children in the class gave similar reports about Mia’s behavior, saying she would “yell, play around, walk around in class to other student’s desks and talked to students.”
While some students said they had not seen anything, others confirmed that Lopez taped Mia to her seat, with at least one child saying that Lopez wasn’t “happy or unhappy” when the incident was occurring.
Kevin M. Moore, an attorney representing Mia’s family, says he is not aware of the mother authorizing Lopez to “try anything” but said that is no excuse for the “unexplainable incident.”
“Let’s assume that was completely accurate,” said Moore of Clausen & Moore Law Firm. “I can’t imagine that TUSD trains their teachers to utilize duct tape as a last resort.”
He added: “The family is very upset about the fact that they were not treated with the respect and dignity they felt they deserved.”
According to Moore, Mia was used as an example of what would happen in Lopez’s classroom if she felt the behavior of the children was inappropriate.
Mia has not returned to school since the incident, Moore said. It is the family’s hope that she can return under a different teacher or to a different school.
Attempts by the Star to reach Lopez were unsuccessful.
TUSD has said that such behavior by a teacher is not appropriate or acceptable and that it is not part of any district protocol.