61ºF

YMCA staffer accused of duct taping child's mouth

Staffer fired over allegations; 6-year-old's mouth was bleeding, mom says

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – A staff member at the Dye Clay Family YMCA in Orange Park is out of a job over allegations she duct taped a 6-year-old's mouth shut.

WJXT reports Jacque Moreno said it happened Monday during an after-school watch program run through a partnership with Ride Out Elementary and Dye Clay Family YMCA in Clay County.

The YMCA has identified that staff member as site director Valerie Ertel.

Moreno said her son's lips started bleeding after the the tape was torn off his mouth. She said the teacher admitted to putting duct tape over her son's mouth but never gave her an explanation as to why.

According to her son, it was because he was talking too much.

Moreno filed a report with the Clay County Sheriff's Office, and she said Tuesday that she's grateful Ertel is being held responsible.

"He did state that it was hurting so bad and he was trying to get it off. But he said it was from cheek to cheek," Moreno said. "I said, 'Josh, why are your lips bleeding?' And he said, well, that's because Ms. Val, who is the YMCA teacher, duct taped his lips."

Moreno said she picked up 6-year-old Josh and her 8-year-old daughter, Jenna, from the after-school program on Monday when Josh explained that it happened because he was talking too much.

Moreno said she confronted Ertel about it. She asked why her son's lips were bleeding and Ertel admitted to the duct tape incident.

"She didn't state why she did it," Moreno said. "No apology at all. She hesitated, you know, because she knew it was wrong."

Moreno said several children saw what happened. She said another little boy also had his mouth duct taped. He was apparently talking with her son at the time. She said she's now trying to get in touch with that boy's parents.

The YMCA issued this statement on Tuesday: "The safety and security of children in our care is our highest priority. Immediately after this incident was brought to our attention, we launched an internal investigation and based on our findings, we have terminated the employee."

With the Clay County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Children and Families now involved in the case, Moreno said she's left with a terrified son, who blames himself for what happened.

"He thinks that he's the one in trouble for it because of the situation because of what happened. And no one wants that for their child at all," Moreno said.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office said a special victim's detective will begin working on the case on Wednesday.

Ertel could not be reached for comment on the incident.