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Tustin District Bars Substitute Who Allegedly Taped Girl's Mouth Shut

Classmates say first-grader also was told she might be tied up for misbehaving. Police are investigating.

March 22, 2001|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A substitute teacher has been told he can never again teach in the Tustin Unified School District after he allegedly taped a first-grade girl's mouth shut with a strip of masking tape and threatened to tie her up because the youngster was disruptive in class.

Tustin police are investigating to determine whether any criminal conduct was involved in the alleged incident, which occurred last Friday at Lambert Elementary School.

The teacher's name, which was not made public, has been forwarded by the district to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which will conduct an investigation to determine whether to revoke or suspend his teaching credential.

The alleged incident occurred just before school let out Friday afternoon, said Mark Eliot, a district spokesman. He said the girl's mother, Theresa Rodriguez, came to the school Monday morning to report the incident to principal Karla Wells, who notified the district office.

"We took immediate action," Eliot said. "We take this very seriously and will not tolerate that type of behavior in the classroom."

Eliot said the principal talked to the other children in the class who verified the incident. The district then "informed the substitute teacher that he would not be returning to Lambert nor working in this district again," Eliot said.

The regular classroom teacher was back Monday, Eliot said. The substitute had been working in the district since January and had previously subbed in the first-grade classroom, he said. School officials said the alleged incident was the first complaint the district had received regarding the substitute teacher.

Eliot said he doesn't recall any similar incidents during his 15 years with the district.

"It's an isolated incident," he said. "We have great teachers and great substitute teachers."

Tustin Police Lt. Brent Zizarelli said the police investigation has just been launched and they haven't even interviewed the child or her classmates.

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