ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A family says it has reached an agreement in a lawsuit against Albuquerque Public Schools after a special needs student says a teacher’s assistant taped his mouth shut.
As they await a hearing to officially finalize the terms of the settlement, the student’s family says they hope this lawsuit will send a message to the school system and the public about how students should be treated.
Even with the help of his wheelchair and his grandma, Genoveva Alvarado, 18-year-old Augustine Reynoso faces physical challenges with cerebral palsy. So, when a teacher’s assistant at Rio Grande High School was accused of further restricting his abilities, his family had concerns.
Reynoso’s grandma filed a federal lawsuit against APS, teacher Juan Lucero and the teacher’s assistant Dolores Lopez over what happened to Reynoso at the high school in September 2013.
According to the lawsuit, when Reynoso got back to school after a field trip, the teacher’s assistant taped Reynoso’s mouth shut because he wouldn’t stop making noises. A teacher saw it and did nothing to stop it.
“I remember the tape placed on my mouth,” Reynoso said. “I didn’t feel good.”
Albuquerque Public Schools wouldn’t comment on the allegations. A spokesperson says the teacher’s assistant retired a year after the incident and the teacher resigned a month after that.
Now the family’s attorney says they’ve reached a settlement with the district.
“We think it was a fair agreement,” said David Idinopulos, Reynoso’s attorney.
He wouldn’t say how much money APS is expected to pay.
“It was about achieving some level of justice and sending the message that you can’t tape over people’s rights,” Idinopulos said.
Now, despite difficulties getting around sometimes, Reynoso has no problem sharing what’s on his mind.
“I just graduated,” he said. “I feel good.”
He graduated from Rio Grande High School in May 2015 after, his grandma says, he switched teachers because of what happened.
The settlement still has to be approved in court. A hearing for that hasn’t been scheduled yet, and APS said it couldn’t comment on the settlement until after that hearing takes place.