The Wichita Falls ISD's investigation into a January incident, where a Zundy Elementary School teacher was accused of putting duct tape on her students' mouths, is now complete.
The incident happened January 21, 2016 and parents were informed out about the situation Friday, January 22.
Parents were informed by the administration of the school that a 1st grade class of students had their mouths taped shut for a period of time throughout the school day Thursday. They also told parents that had put the teacher on administrative leave.
Monday, Newschannel 6 is learning more about the incident after obtaining documents through an open records request.
The former teacher at Zundy Elementary School has now been identified as Dawn Renfro.
In what she described as “poor judgement,” she said pieces of duct tape were handed out and students put them over their mouths.
“A conversation came up about being quiet and that even with tape, they couldn’t be quiet,” according to a letter submitted by Renfro. “I put tape over my mouth and said this is what you would sound like. The students said ‘can we try it?’ and brought me the tape.”
The letter went on to say there was no malicious intent, that the class was just being silly.
“The students asked if they could do it again the next day, but with another color. I told them no,” said Renfro.
The investigation revealed that two different school staff members walked in on a classroom full of students with their mouths taped shut.
The first time, before lunch, around 11 a.m.
Melissa Hoepfner, the at-risk coordinator, was walking in the hallway to Mrs. Renfro’s class, when a student in the hallway told her the teacher was putting duct tape on their mouths.
“I was headed to check on a student that had been in trouble earlier anyway, and saw what looked to be the entire class had blue duct tape on their mouths,” said Hoepfner, in a letter submitted to the district.
Hoepfner said Mrs. Renfro informed her that they were all just playing around, and that it was their choice to put it on.
The students were taking the tape off before Hoepfner left for lunch duty. Hoepfner later reported the incident to other school staff, and later the Zundy Assistant Principal.
However, the incident didn’t seem to end there. Around 1 p.m. Friday, January 22, 2016, another Zundy staff member also walked in to Mrs. Renfro’s class to find students with tape on their mouths.
“I walked into Mrs. Renfro’s classroom to witness her students’ mouths covered with dark blue duct tape,” said Shamekia Smith, a first grade paraprofessional at Zundy Elementary, in a state submitted to the district. “Mrs. Renfro then stated to me that she had given them all a piece of duct tape to put over their mouths because they didn’t know how to be quiet and maybe the tape will help because she couldn’t get any work done.”
On top of submissions by school staff, the victims in Mrs. Renfro’s class also had to answer a series of ten questions.
The questions included things like, whose idea it was to put the duct tape on? Most students answered that question by saying Mrs. Renfro’s, however, some said it was the students’ idea.
Renfro had worked with the district for about 11 years. She contends she would never intentionally hurt a child.