Teacher’s aide tapes special needs student’s mouth shut, superintendent apologizes

Augustine Reynoso has a hard time talking about September 24.

The 16-year-old with cerebral palsy gets emotional while recounting what he says happened at Rio Grande High School in New Mexico at the hands of his teacher’s aide, Dolores Lopez.

“Dolores put the tape on me…On my mouth,” he said.

Now Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks is apologizing.

“I was horrified actually,” said Brooks after hearing the story. “I was sitting there thinking it’s too bad something like this happened in the district that I’m superintendent in. I was extremely touched by the child who has cerebral palsy and yet you can tell he has super intelligence.”

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

“If somebody came up to me and put masking tape or scotch tape on my mouth I wouldn’t think it’d be too funny,” said Brooks. “To do that to a handicapped youngster makes it even worse.”

Still, Lopez was put back at Rio Grande High School and, to the dismay of many, was allowed back into the same classroom with the teen.

Brooks calls this a “mistake.”

Now Lopez has been moved to a different classroom.

“I am sorry that the EA was put back in the same classroom with the student,” said Brooks.

Asked why Lopez is still working at APS, Brooks said, “There are always two sides to every story and there’s a lot more that’s got nothing to do with the young man. Has more to do with the classroom dynamics and some other kinds of things that I can’t go into.”

Augustine Reynoso opted not to go to school on Tuesday.

His superintendent assures him it is safe to return.

“That [educational assistant] will not be in his classroom,” said Brooks.

Brooks say he supports the district’s discipline committee which handed Lopez a three week suspension, one week was unpaid.

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