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Hillsborough School Board suspends teacher accused of duct-taping student's eyes

TAMPA — Without discussion, the Hillsborough County School Board voted 6-0 on Tuesday to suspend a music teacher accused of duct-taping a kindergartener's eyes.

The next step: firing teacher Lindsay Blanc.

The 29-year-old, who earns $42,000 a year, remained on the payroll and was working at the district's Manhattan administrative center. But as of the board's vote, she was suspended without pay. In April, she was removed from the classroom at Potter Elementary School because of the duct-tape allegation.

Now the district will move to fire her, although she could try to appear before the board in an appeals hearing in a bid to keep her job.

The district tried to let her go by simply declining to renew her contract. But the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association argued that, after four years on the job, she should be given due process rights.

A Tampa Police Department report showed some of the 19 children interviewed at Potter, an F-rated school in east Tampa, described being duct-taped by the teacher as punishment. Others witnessed Blanc taping children's eyes, or threatening to do so.

She also warned kids who didn't behave that she would have them taken away in "a white van," according to the police report. Blanc was not charged with a crime.

A school district investigative report, which was made available Monday, backed up the allegations in the police report. Among them: principal Krystal Carson had warned Blanc before about touching the students.

And the district report said Blanc admitted to the principal that she had shown students the duct tape, warning that if they misbehaved they would "get this."

The mother of the child whose eyes were duct-taped, Monica Vann, told the Tampa Bay Times that her son got in trouble on April 21 for talking during his music lesson.

He was sent to sit at the "peace table" for a time out, she said. But he kept turning around to watch a movie with the other children, and to punish him, Blanc taped his eyes. The district report says the children who witnessed this told a parent, who reported the incident to Carson the next day.

Carson called her supervisors and the district called in the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office child protective investigations unit, which verified a case of "bizarre punishment."

Vann said her child's behavior has worsened since the incident, that he has nightmares and throws tantrums. He was not physically harmed by the experience, beyond some minor skin irritation, she said.

The mother said she hopes the district will provide psychological counseling for her son.

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or msokol@tampabay.com. Follow @marlenesokol

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