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Hillsborough County kindergartner traumatized after being taped to desk, lawsuit says

TAMPA — The mother of a 7-year-old girl is suing the Hillsborough County school district, claiming the girl was traumatized when a teacher used packing tape to restrain her in a chair.

Bertha Sosi's suit says her daughter, a former student at Mintz Elementary in Brandon, suffered mental distress from the incident, including nightmares in which she saw her teacher's face on the body of animals attacking her.

"Her therapist is certain the problems and fear she has of going to school is a direct cause of this incident," said Daryl A. Stringer, Sosi's lawyer.

The suit alleges Cecibel Cruz, the child's kindergarten teacher in 2007, "obtained packing tape and proceeded to tape Miss Sosi by wrapping her arms to her waist and then taping Miss Sosi to the back of the chair in front of all of her classmates."

Stringer claims the child was restrained for 15 minutes until a teacher's aide freed her. Cruz allowed the class to laugh and mock the girl as she cried and asked to be freed, he said.

A letter from the School Board's attorney confirms the girl was taped to a chair, but only with a "12-inch strip" across her lap, said attorney James Murman.

"Your client could have stood up since the tape was not truly a restraint," Murman wrote. The teacher said the tape was in place for only two minutes, he said, and was used to keep her sitting during "quiet time."

Stringer said the suit comes after two years of unsuccessful negotiations with the School Board.

"Under no circumstances should anyone's child be taped to their chair and humiliated," he said.

Cruz, 32, started her teaching career in Hillsborough in 2002 at Oak Park Elementary in Tampa, school records show.

The suit says the incident happened during the 2006-2007 school year, Cruz's first year teaching at Mintz and first full year teaching kindergarten.

Cobbe said there is no record of disciplinary action against Cruz in the Office of Professional Standards. Cruz declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

Reach Robbyn Mitchell at (813) 226-3373 or rmitchell@sptimes.com.

Hillsborough County kindergartner traumatized after being taped to desk, lawsuit says 04/01/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 11:59pm]
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