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Teacher Abused Autistic Kid with Hot Sauce

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Do you think she deserves jail time ... or was she just trying to teach him a lesson?

Sylvia Tagle special needs teacher abuses student

According to the Associated Press, a Florida jury has found a Miami-area special needs teacher guilty of abuse after police say she put hot sauce in an autistic student's soda.

Sylvia Tagle was convicted Tuesday. She allegedly gave the spiked soda to the student to "teach him a lesson." She says the boy grabbed the soda from her desk when she was with other students.

"She maintains her innocence," said attorney Ronald Manto. "She believes that she gave her life's work to working with autistic children, and she did a lot of good work, and that she did not do anything wrong."

She faces a maximum of five years in jail, and will be sentenced in October.

This reminds us of the kindergarten teacher who had students vote whether an autistic 5-year-old boy should be allowed to stay in class or not. Unacceptable!

Do you think Sylvia Tagle deserves jail time? Comment below.

next: John Travolta Testifies Son Was Autistic
47 comments so far | Post a comment now
ame i. September 23, 2009, 12:53 PM

Why was his soda on her desk?
Five years for hot sauce? People beat the hell out of their kids and don’t see five years in jail.

Anonymous September 23, 2009, 12:58 PM

If the kid wasn’t autistic, would this had gone this far? I understand alerting the parents and maybe have the teacher’s license revoked, but the only reason she got in real trouble is because the kid is autistic. I think we need to move on.

The kid shouldn’t have stolen the soda from her desk anyway. What if the drink was actually dangerous, like a chemical? If anything, the child is at fault here. It was a wrong method of punishment, but the kid actually learned his lesson. No jail for teacher.

Anonymous September 23, 2009, 1:05 PM

Ridiculous. It’s not harmful, and it was a one time event. Teachers are humans too, and humans get bad ideas sometimes. It definitely don’t sound like harassment of a child, just a silly act of a teacher.

Anonymous September 23, 2009, 1:06 PM

hell no she’s innocent! she didnt GIVE the brat the soda, he went up and STOLE it off her desk. its his own damn fault. maybe if he was more well behaved and knew that STEALING was wrong, this never would have happened. kapish?

molly September 23, 2009, 1:09 PM

autistic or not the child knew he shouldnt be stealing her soda from her desk. i think it was a brilliant idea and people are far to sesitive these days. it’s not like she poisoned the boy or physically hurt him in any way. get over it people!

Alex September 23, 2009, 5:49 PM

Did she do anything wrong? Yes, she did. Does she deserve up to 5 years in prison? Absolutely not! I have known Sylvia Tagle as a co-worker for many years. We were co-workers at the previous school she taught at. She is a well respected teacher and highly requested by parents of autistic children. One of the problems in school systems is that when a parent hears about an incident, all of a sudden, their child was a victim, too! The other problem is that many teachers jump to conclusions right away and are sometimes incredibly unfair to fellow teachers. The rumors of Mrs. Tagle spread like wildfire through our school! They even said she had already been sentenced to 15 years! They are also afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation. I cannot sleep at night knowing that this lady may go to prison for soemthing like this. At least I can voice my opinion. As far as the Department of Children and Families is concerned, a child must be black and blue and on life support before they do anything about a child being abused by a parent /guardian/foster parent. A teacher, on the other hand, taps a child on the shoulder and an investigation is immediately started. This is a sue happy society. Just look at the billboards along highhways: “”. The jury for this trial was probably composed of fools, as usual. I am a strong advocate of children but I also have to defend teachers that are punished. Mrs. Tagle was a wonderful teacher during the time I worked with her. I still believe that she is. Unfortunately, she made a mistake that has cost her tremendously. If other teachers had spoken up on her behalf and not been cowards, maybe she wouldn’t be going through this. I also hope this child’s mother never feeds him anything with hot sauce! Watch out, mommy! You may be next!!

Anonymous September 23, 2009, 7:26 PM

For you who call autistic children brats you are completely ignorant!! Go and do plenty of research on autistic children!!!! You would never truly understand how difficult it is to have and raise and autistic child. This teacher who supposedly has worked with autistic children her whole life should have known then the behaviors, and actions of an autistic child and if she didn’t want the soda touched then she should have put in a place where it couldn’t have been reached by the child. Using the hot sauce is completely unacceptable, she could have done something else to help him understand that that wasn’t the right thing to do.

Tom September 23, 2009, 7:36 PM

what the hell is wrong with you ignorant people how can you even say that you guys are the most ignorant people I have ever came across you sit there and say that and this so called teacher that is defending her you have a lot to say on this womans behalf and I’m just wondering why are you even a teacher you see nothing wrong with that I see a lot wrong with what she did people like you get away with way to much you seem to think your big and bad to do something to a child lets see what you do when an adult comes along oh that’s right you can’t deal with an adult your a bunch of punks who think your above it all and do what you want well guess what 5 years is not long enough for her.

mercaties September 23, 2009, 11:56 PM

I agree, those of you who are actually blaming the child here either do not have children or have absolutly no tollerance for a special needs child. She shouldn’t have had a can of soda on her desk, that was just bad judgment. The hot sauce very, very childish. Yes, she should absolutly recieve some sort of repremand but prision time seems unreasonable though, I think our jail’s should be used for real child abusers. But if this had happened to my child, I would be pretty pissed and any parent who says they wouldn’t be is crazy.

Cheryl September 24, 2009, 4:30 AM

If you purposely poison food, knowing it is going to be ingested, it is a crime. If you did the same thing to your own lunch and put it in the company refrigerator to teach that greedy coworker a lesson, it is a crime. Period. I don’t think that she should go to jail for it, maybe some kind of community service, or anger management. It must be hard to work with special needs kids all day, maybe she is burnt out.

bawinn September 24, 2009, 6:40 AM


dean September 24, 2009, 7:26 AM

Jail time? Really? Little brat deserved it.

Gail Cooke September 24, 2009, 11:48 AM

Totally the kid’s fault. She should get an acquittal and a written apology from the parents of the child and her employer.

Nancy September 24, 2009, 3:27 PM

I’ve been a Special Ed teacher for many years and have worked with my fair share of autistic kids. Yes - I know they can be difficult to work with, but they also have to learn limits. Unfortunately, too many parents of autistic kids enable their kids by blaming everything on their autisism. I see no problem whatsoever with the teacher having a can of soda on her desk - AND expecting the kids to leave it alone! If the kid went and took it off her desk, he needs to learn that behavior is inappropriate. Maybe hot sauce is what it takes for him to learn.

Thanita September 24, 2009, 3:35 PM

I agree that while 5 years seems harsh it is the teacher’s fault and NOT the child. I have an autistic child and unless you live with one day in and day out you cannot truly understand the unique way they think. If this woman really didn’t want her soda to be touched, she shouldn’t have put it in a place to tempt the child. Further more to call a child with developmental disabilities a brat, well it shows the type of compassion you have, or lack there of. Some of you really disgust me. Let’s remember who the adult in the scenario is.

heather September 24, 2009, 3:44 PM

It seems to me there was something cruel, whether intentionally or not, in this teacher’s creative “punishment”of an autistic child and at the very least it did not fit the “crime.” Who knows if this poor child even knew he was doing anything wrong? When a child takes food or drink he shouldn’t, you don’t contaminate his food to “teach him a lesson.” Clearly the woman showed terrible judgment and probably does not have the patience to work with special needs kids. She should be fired or reassigned to a job where she is not working directly with the kids; it should end there.

Kat  September 24, 2009, 5:10 PM

This woman clearly should NOT be working with special needs children. She should not have had a soda in the classroom, but she should have had the common sense to keep it out of reach of the kids. Maybe five years in prison is a little much, but I do think it is child abuse.

kitchenwitch September 25, 2009, 5:15 AM

Was she trying to teach him a lesson? No, she is a frustrated and angry teacher who lacks patience and sympathy for her students. My son is autistic - and sometimes he grabs things he shouldn’t. Is he a brat? No, he can’t even answer the simple question, “What’s your name?” He’s impaired. It makes me sick to think of someone taunting and torturing a child like this — the way a neighborhood bully might. Five years might seem like a a steep sentence, but this was defintely a form of abuse.

Vector September 25, 2009, 7:57 PM

Would the owner of this site please investigate those commenters who identify themselves as abusive teachers? These would be specifically “Alex” and “Nancy.” If their full names or places of employment can be identified through their comments, it is important that they be investigated for their own likely abuse of their students.

Jolyn September 28, 2009, 6:32 PM

II do believe that this incident happened in the cafeteria not the classroom. If the teacher stayed in the cafeteria to assist the paraprofessional with the class …then my hat off to her. She gave up her duty free lunch out of concern for her para and students. In my experience of working with the autistic child…it is a great responsibility. I have kept an autistic child in my home several times over the years because the parents needed some down time. It take a very special person to be able to teach 25 years and never burn out. I do believe the news reported that Ms. Tagle had taught for 25 years and not one blemish on her record. That says a lot. Teaching in ESE for 25 years is admirable. If this incident happened in the cafeteria…if someone was going to intentionally harm a child…would they do it in front of an entire cafeteria? I do not believe that Tagle should receive jail time. Drug dealers that sell drugs to our kids get less punishment.

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