(THE DAY) — Groton – A Northeast Academy teacher who asked her fourth-grade students to keep crumpled paper towels in their mouths for five minutes in an attempt to keep them from talking out loud or yelling out answers is on paid administrative leave, according to the superintendent of schools.

The incident, which involved about nine of 18 students in Carole Van Erven’s fourth-grade class, happened near the end of January or in early February, Superintendent of Schools Paul J. Kadri said Saturday.

Van Erven, a 20-year-teacher at the Mystic elementary school, is facing disciplinary action, but Kadri declined to elaborate on the details of that action because it is a personnel matter.

“This is a what-were-you-thinking situation,” Kadri said. “We opened an investigation and thoroughly explored the situation and we have zero concern about any risk going forward. This wasn’t done to be physically hurtful, and we take student safety as our number one priority above academic achievement.”

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