Colorado middle school launches probe after teen says teacher TAPED masks to students’ faces in class

A Colorado Springs school district has launched an investigation after a teenage girl there said at least one teacher had forced her and other students to use tape to affix their masks so that they comply with the mask mandate.

Colorado Springs’ Academy School District 20 said it would conduct a probe over allegations that some staff at Chinook Trail Middle School had taped masks to students’ faces, according to a local media report. The charge originated after photos emerged online showing one female student with a taped-on mask, who has since identified herself as ‘Rylee M.’ Both she and her mother were featured in posts by conservative activist Michelle Malkin, helping the story garner attention on social media. 

“Forcing kids to tape masks to their faces is CHILD ABUSE. It's happening in my backyard in Colorado Springs, according to one family,” Malkin wrote. “I spoke this morning with Stephanie M., mother of Rylee, a 6th grader at Chinook Trail Middle School.”

Stephanie rushed to Chinook Trail Middle School after her daughter texted her that a teacher gave her a warning and handed her blue painter's tape to seal the mask to her face. Rylee told her that at least 1 other student was also directed to do the same.

In an audio clip circulating online, Rylee said she had been warned that she was not wearing her mask properly prior to the tape incident, and that she was given the option to apply the tape herself, or to simply “learn” to wear her mask as directed. Asked what might happen if a student declined to wear the tape, the girl said she did not know, as nobody had attempted to refuse.

Responding to the charges, a spokeswoman for the school district, Allison Cortez, said that the allegation first surfaced last Friday that “teachers were taping face masks to students’ faces,” and that other community members had since made similar claims.

“The school and Academy District 20 are now conducting an internal investigation. We are interviewing more than 100 students and staff members to better understand this situation,” Cortez said, though added that so far there had been no “concrete findings.”

Speaking with a local Fox affiliate, Rylee’s mother said the tape amounted to a “type of restraint,” raising fears this could have long-term psychological effects on still-developing minds.. 

It’s developing some sort of mentality in our children where that kind of restraint over your face [is normal]. Your face is you, that is how people know you, they are just doubling down on hiding you and not letting you breathe, and it just conformity to the extreme.

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Another parent, Tori Skeldum, suggested to Fox that the tape had, indeed, become a common method to enforce masking rules. “[My daughter] said the teachers were wearing the masking tape around their wrists like bracelets and whenever someone’s mask would fall down they would tape them,” Skeldum said. “It’s sad that our world is coming to this and teachers would think it is ok.”

An email sent out to parents from the district, however, also cited “rumors” that students had been taping their masks “on their own,” that teachers had themselves “handed out the tape,” as well as “rumors that teachers joked about it but the students got the tape.” 

“There are so many versions of this story that is why we need to actually talk with every single student and find out what really happened,” Cortez said in the email.

The alleged mask-taping would not be without precedent. A middle school in Leawood, Kansas came under fire late last month following similar allegations, with one parent claiming teachers instructed students to tape their masks onto their faces, or else risk a trip to the principal’s office. In another incident last month, a substitute teacher at a Las Vegas-area elementary school was accused of forcibly taping a mask to the face of a 9-year-old boy, who was left “crying,” “upset” and “humiliated,” according to his mother.

The school-based incidents reflect other controversies over masks in the wider world, where countless public altercations have erupted over the use (or lack of) facemasks, seeing everything from impromptu shouting matches to outright physical confrontations between complete strangers, highlighting just what a contentious issue the face coverings have become.

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