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"My daughter told the truth:" D20 investigation reveals teachers instructed students to tape on face masks

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Posted at 11:11 AM, Nov 09, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS — Academy School District 20 has concluded an investigation into allegations of teachers at Chinook Trail Middle School taping face masks to students' faces.

Last month, a photo of a sixth-grader with a face mask taped to her mouth began circulating on social media. The girl's mother had posted the picture to find out if other parents were aware of a “policy” of taped masks, and whether it had been done to other students.

"I have the Time Hop app on my phone where it saves all of the photos on your phone through the years. It gives you eight years ago this photo. I send funny photos to her and usually, she ignores them and continues on with her day. But that day, she sent me a selfie back and it was the masking tape one. At first, I thought she was joking but then she started being vague with her answers. She said it was something new they were doing in the pod," said Stephanie.

Stephanie took her concerns to the school administration who quickly acted.

"I went up to the school and they got the dean to talk with me, and we also got Rylee from class. The dean interviewed her about what was going on in the pod, and after Rylee answered her questions, she went to talk with the teachers of the pod. When she came back, she confirmed that was what those teachers of that pod were doing," said Stephanie.

An investigation was launched into the allegations, and Stephanie switched her daughter to remote learning in the meantime.

After interviewing over 100 students and ten teachers and staff, Chinook Trail Middle School Principal Tom Andrew said the four teachers involved with 'Team 642' did violate policy and procedure by instructing students to tape their masks to their faces, and students thought it was required since their teachers told them to do it.

"We are disappointed, both by the decisions made and the outcome of the investigation. More importantly, we are disappointed this event led to learning and social and emotional impacts to our students and their families," Andrew said in a letter to families.

The district held a meeting Monday night with the families of students impacted by the allegations. The four teachers also met with students Tuesday morning.

"We knew that those students, team, and their families were the most impacted. We thought it was important to sit down, face to face, and talk through how we got here, what was found, and how we want to move forward. After it was over, the principal allowed them to come up, and they answered questions and talked things through. That relationship building is what we're all about here," said Allison Cortez, Chief Communications Officer for Academy School District 20. "This was a case where teachers really wanted to keep their students out of quarantines so they can keep them in the classroom, and they thought this was the best way to do that. Unfortunately, it was a bad judgment call. There was no malice, they just really wanted those kids in class."

Stephanie says she was shocked to hear the investigation findings, and the meeting was conducted.

"It was seven minutes, and then he told the parents they could go into the hallway and if they have questions they can ask. It wasn't personal, it was in the main hallway of the school and crowded around other people. I had my one year with me, and I had already talked with him so I left. The teachers of the pod were present but didn't speak. Before the parent forum, we were handed an apology letter that was typed up," said Stephanie.

Dear 642 Parents/Guardians,

Teaching and serving your children are a privilege; and we do not take that lightly. Your student’s safety and learning are our top priorities, and we are terribly sorry for the disruption this has caused.

It was never our intent to cause anxiety, fear, confusion, or physical or emotional harm. Our greatest desire was to keep students in our classrooms and prevent quarantines due to COVID exposure. To follow district policy and keep students engaged with in-person learning, our team made a mistake in our methods. Please accept our deepest and most heartfelt apologies.

We can only imagine how the past three weeks have felt for each of you. For us, it has been a time of deep reflection. As a team we made a decision that was not best for our students. We will learn from this situation and moving forward we will strive to do better and always do what is best for kids.

Our team shares a deep love, respect, and responsibility for your child and their well-being. We look forward to returning to normal and continuing along this learning journey with your family.
CTMS Team 642

"I'm just so mad at them. I think it would have been more personalized if each teacher spoke up, in person. It's kind of like they are using themselves as a group to protect themselves, not coming up individually with statements," said Stephanie.

She says it's been a rough few weeks for her family. She hasn't been able to get all of her daughter's online assignments, and she's been getting bullied throughout the investigation process.

"The kids that texted her said our teachers are going to get fired all because of you and she got really depressed about that, but those students didn't realize something was wrong," said Stephanie.

While the investigation is over, she won't drop it, and will continue pushing for transparency.

"My daughter told the truth, and for those who said it was a joke, it was never a joke," said Stephanie.

She has withdrawn her daughter from Chinook Trail Middle School since the teachers involved weren't fired. The district will not say publicly, what, if any discipline was taken against the teachers since it's an internal personnel matter.