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BELOIT | MASK INCIDENT IN CLASS

Beloit closes schools Friday due to ‘safety concerns’ from potential protest by ‘outside group’

School book and apple, generic file photo

All Beloit public schools were closed Friday due to safety concerns about a potential protest by an "outside group" over allegations a teacher taped a face mask to a student's face.

The decision to close schools was made jointly by the school district and the Beloit Police Department.

"This was solely done for the safety of the students and staff," Sarah Lock, a spokesperson for the city of Beloit, said in a statement issued on behalf of the Police Department.

Last week, a student and his parents alleged a Beloit McNeel Intermediate School special-education teacher taped a mask to the student's head after he refused to wear it properly, according to a police report on the incident.

After interviewing the student, teacher, another staff member present at the time and several classmates about the Oct. 26 incident, the school resource officer, who investigated the allegations, determined there was no probable cause for an arrest.

Lock said the investigation is closed with no evidence of a crime being found. She said a separate investigation is open regarding threats against school staff.

According to the police report:

The teacher told police she did tape the front of the student's mask to his face, but only as a joke after she said the student challenged her to do so and then he laughed about it. The teacher said she removed the tape, after which the student wore his mask properly.

The student told police he had pulled his mask under his nose because he was having trouble breathing. The teacher told him to pull it up before, the student said, she wrapped tape around his head about five times.

The police report notes that, during the interview with the student, his parents "would begin to speak into the conversation without being asked questions," including comments by the student's father about contacting news outlets and attorneys, hiring a private investigator, mentioning a hashtag on social media and wanting to start a protest at the school.

The student also reported he was sent to an assistant principal's office, according to the report, but security camera footage didn't show the student in the office, and school administrators reported he wasn't there.

Interviews with several students in the classroom at the time provided varying accounts of what happened. Some said the tape was applied in a joking manner; others reported seeing tape put on different areas of the student's head. Students also disagreed over the amount of tape used.

On its website, the district said Friday's cancellation was done after considering "the behaviors, actions, and language of certain groups who do not consider the safety and well-being of others."

"We have zero-tolerance for hate speech, violence, or threats made against our staff and District," the district said. "We stand together as a District and community against all forms of hate and racism.”

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