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Ex-principal guilty of molesting girl

The former principal of an elite private school was convicted Friday of kissing and fondling an eighth-grade girl last year.

A six-member Circuit Court jury accepted the word of the former Creative Learning Center student, now 15, over that of Dale Vinson, 52, who denied the allegations in testimony Thursday.

"I would never do anything to harm a student," Vinson told the jury. Other defense witnesses said they never saw him doing anything inappropriate.

Vinson faces up to 15 years in prison for lewd and lascivious assault on a child under 16 and a one-year maximum for battery. Sentencing was set for Sept. 29.

Vinson had worked at the school for 15 years but retired last year. He dropped plans to take a public school teaching job after he was arrested.

The girl testified Wednesday that Vinson first molested her during and Outward Bound trip that took her class to the Everglades in March 1998. She said he put his sleeping bag between her and another girl and during the night he kissed her, touched her face and sucked her fingers.

Vinson admitted he slept between the students, saying he wanted to be near the second girl because she had suffered serious insect bites and was worried about a possible medical emergency during the night.

The other girl, however, testified that Vinson never said anything about wanting to sleep next to her.

Vinson also denied allegations that he kissed the girl at school and during a class party at a bowling alley and that he had pressed against her while swimming at a beach party.