The image in question was first posted on Jan. 17 in the Facebook group North Penn Stronger Together. It appears to show a teacher applying tape to a mask on the face of a student, who was seated in a classroom.
The post alleged the photo shows “a Pennfield Middle School co-teacher taping a mask to a child’s face” and demanded an explanation from the North Penn School District, as well as from the Democrats who were reelected to the district’s school board in November 2021.
“Pro-mask or anti-mask, I hope we can all agree that taping masks to children’s faces crosses the LINE. This was not a joke for the child or the parents,” said North Penn Stronger Together, which was founded in support of Republicans seeking to unseat the Democratic school board members last fall.
In a statement released on Jan. 19, the school district said it was an isolated incident and didn’t involve malicious intent.
“An image taken in one of our classrooms last week and circulating on social media does not represent the universal values that the North Penn School District strives to instill in both our students and staff,” the district said. “After an immediate investigation, it was determined that while the incident was isolated and no malice was intended, the actions of the teacher were entirely inappropriate and unacceptable, no matter the context.”
The teacher and the student haven’t been identified, and it’s not known when the photo was taken. The school district said “all personnel and student matters are confidential” and that it could provide “no further information.”
The photo has also triggered a social media skirmish between North Penn Strong Together and its Democratic counterpart North Penn Neighbors for Progress, with the Democrats accusing the Republicans of engaging in “exploitation of a child and family on social media” for political gain.
“The continued exploitation of any piece of negative news to re-instigate the cynical, partisan rhetoric that fueled your failed campaign is exhausting,” said Neighbors for Progress. “Please stop demanding public comment on a matter that must be foremost dealt with internally.”
In response, Stronger Together said the group is “no longer tied with any political race” and that they were “told about and given permission to post the picture.”
“The parents and the child were not okay with that action, and were not happy with the administrations’ handling of the incident,” the group said. “While we respect the privacy of personnel issues, we are PARENTS NOT POLITICIANS seeking some kind of leadership that gives us confidence that that faceless child won’t be one of ours.”
In a similar incident last year, a substitute teacher in Las Vegas allegedly taped a mask to the face of a 9-year-old student because the child forgot to wear one when he got up during class for a drink of water. The student’s mother told media that the teacher, instead of simply telling her son to put a mask on, brought the boy to the front of the classroom and taped his mask across his face.