Parents back Vail Valley teacher in court
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Sitting on a bench outside a courtroom at the Eagle County courthouse, Kelly Herzog waited for Vail Valley teacher Rosa Gonzalez to answer child abuse charges.
“The more I’ve looked into it, the more unjust and unfair it seems that Rosy is facing charges,” Herzog said.
Herzog was among 20 parents who showed support Tuesday for Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a Spanish teacher who lost her job at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School in Edwards amid allegations she told students to duct tape one another’s mouths shut as a punishment for talking in class.
Gonzalez pleaded “no contest” to one misdemeanor child abuse charge. Two other child abuse charges were thrown out. Judge Katharine Sullivan deferred Gonzalez’s sentence, saying the case would be dismissed at the end of one year as long as Gonzalez refrains from committing any serious crimes. Those were the terms of a plea bargain Deputy District Attorney Ryan Kalamaya reached with Gonzalez’s defense attorney, Taggart Howard.
The hearing turned highly emotional at times as conflicting stories about the duct tape incident emerged and parents pleaded with the judge to show a beloved teacher mercy. Some parents cried quietly in the audience as Gonzalez originally pleaded guilty to the child abuse charge.
Wearing a black suit, her hair pulled back in a neat ponytail, Gonzalez gave her description of the duct tape incident with help from a translator. Gonzalez said that on the morning of Sept. 14, her sixth-grade Spanish class became chaotic when three children started singing. Gonzalez said she asked the children to stop singing but they weren’t paying attention. One of the girls suggested a game that involved putting duct tape on students’ mouths, Gonzalez said.
“I realized I didn’t have the mental strength to stop the game in time,” Gonzalez said. “I asked them to stop the game, please.”
Several parents spoke in Gonzalez’s defense. Herzog said her daughter was in class the day of the duct taping.
“It was very clear to me the kids were laughing and joking,” she said. “They were out of control…The kids were not in fear. This was not a disciplinary action.”
Edwards resident Kathy Spangler said her daughter was one of the children who received duct tape to the mouth. She said the criminal charges against Gonzalez should be dropped.
“She lost her job,” Spangler said. “I feel that is more than sufficient.”
Spangler later said the tape did not hurt her daughter.
“She’s perfectly fine,” Spangler said. “There have been no repercussions. We don’t condone what happened in the classroom that day, but this teacher – the actions taken against her are enough.”
After hearing these statements, the judge asked the attorneys whether they needed more plea bargaining time. “I am reluctant to take Ms. Gonzalez’s plea of guilt,” Sullivan said.
The audience burst into applause.
During a long recess, parents peppered Kalamaya with questions about the charges. Kalamaya said his evidence includes written statements from students who were in class that day. Most of the students wrote that Gonzalez told the children to duct tape each other’s mouths shut as a punishment for talking.
One of the statements read: “At the end of class, when I had to take the tape off, I screamed and cried because it felt so bad.”
The Eagle County Sheriff’s office had investigated the incident after the parent of one of the duct taped children reported it to police.
After the recess, Gonzalez told the judge she changed her plea to “no contest.”
Gonzalez declined to comment to the paper, but her defense attorney spoke on her behalf.
“We’re really happy to be able to put this behind us at this point,” Howard said.
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.
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