Editor's note (posted at 3:38 p.m., Friday, March 30):
Because of questions posted by commenters on the articles on Patch, Superintendent Paul Kadri was asked Friday to clarify how paper towels were held in the children’s mouths in Carole Van Erven’s fourth-grade class at Northeast Academy. The second paragraph of this article has been updated to reflect Kadri's clarification, and the word "crumpled" has been deleted.
Kadri said students were not instructed to crumple paper towels into a wad, but rather to place them in their mouths, holding the paper towel between their lips and keeping their mouths closed.
“You take the paper towel, you stick it into your mouth and it’s hanging out of your mouth like a duck bill, it’s not crumpled in your mouth. If you’re holding a paper towel in your mouth, you can’t talk. The idea was to get you to not talk,” Kadri said. He said the principal did a full investigation, with the teacher’s cooperation, to confirm this happened. Kadri said one student started to chew the paper towel, and the teacher told him to throw it away.
A fourth grade Groton teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave for asking students to hold paper towels in their mouths for five minutes if they speak out in class.
Superintendent Paul Kadri said the teacher at Northeast Academy, who has been teaching for more than 20 years, told the students to put paper towels in their mouths in late January and early February. Then Kadri said she stopped doing it.
In March, Kadri said one of the students told a parent, the parent told the principal and the teacher was placed on administrative leave.
He said the teacher is embarrassed and sorry about what happened.
“We had a situation where a teacher made a mistake, “ Kadri said. “No one’s arguing that this was a foolish mistake, a mistake that you makes you say ‘What was I thinking about?’”
“There’s no justification for it. I was telling people, this wasn’t done maliciously. It wasn’t like the teacher was trying to embarrass kids. It was a strategy that for some reason seemed to make sense at the time and she knows it was a big mistake."
He said the teacher has no prior instances of disciplinary action.
Kadri and the principal met with parents of students on Thursday.
He said it is not a fireable offense.
“We’re an organization of 5,000 students and more than 700 staff members, and things are going to happen where people make mistakes. Students and staff. To have a respectful organization that you have appropriate ways of dealing with mistakes so that people can learn from them and come back,” he said.