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Mom: Kindergartener was "traumatized" by teacher duct taping him

The Hillsborough County School Board is expected to fire Lindsay Blanc, pictured during an after-school program in 2013, at its meeting Tuesday, stemming from an allegation that she duct-taped a 5-year-old's eyes on April 21. [Times files (2013)]
The Hillsborough County School Board is expected to fire Lindsay Blanc, pictured during an after-school program in 2013, at its meeting Tuesday, stemming from an allegation that she duct-taped a 5-year-old's eyes on April 21. [Times files (2013)]
Published Jul. 25, 2015

TAMPA — The kindergarteners at Potter Elementary School liked music teacher Lindsay Blanc. She was "nice," they said. She let them watch movies.

But there was another side they described when police visited in April and interviewed 19 children.

If you were "bad," they said, she put you in the corner. If your behavior didn't improve, she would threaten to "tape you up" with one of many rolls of colored tape she kept to section off the classroom floor.

Or, she alternately warned, she would have you removed by "a white van."

These descriptions are laid out in a 44-page Tampa Police Department report released Friday. The Hillsborough County School Board is expected to fire Blanc, 29, at its meeting Tuesday, stemming from an allegation that she duct-taped a 5-year-old's eyes on April 21.

Monica Vann said the child is her son, and he has not been the same since it happened, even though physically he suffered only minor skin irritation.

Vann said she learned about the incident from principal Krystal Carson after it was reported by another school employee.

As Vann heard the story, her son was talking out of turn so he was sent to a "peace table," or time out area.

Blanc played a movie that Vann's child was not supposed to watch. He kept turning around to see it. So Blanc allegedly placed tape over the boy's eyes.

"I was outraged," said Vann, who contacted the Tampa Bay Times on Friday after reading that Blanc has been recommended for dismissal.

"I asked, 'did it hurt?' He told me, 'I thought my eyeballs were going to come out when they pulled out the tape.' "

The Times requested the school district's complete discipline file on Blanc on Thursday. But district spokesmen said it could not be made available that day, and the district was closed Friday.

Carson, the Potter principal, was away on vacation and unavailable for comment. Calls were not returned by Blanc or by attorney Branden Vicari, who the police report described as Blanc's lawyer.

The police report suggests this isn't the first problem Blanc has had with student discipline since she joined the district in 2011.

Carson told police that the day of the duct-tape incident, she was called to Blanc's classroom because a child — possibly Vann's son — was misbehaving. Carson tried to open the door but it wouldn't budge. She pulled harder and Blanc fell out into the hallway, indicating she had been holding the door closed.

Carson said "she has had to speak with Ms. Blanc in the past in reference to blocking a student from leaving through the door and pulling on another student's clothing, hard enough that a button popped off."

Blanc denied ever putting duct tape on children, Carson told the police. But she "did admit to having it in her hands and threatening the child if he didn't start listening."

The Hillsborough County Sheriff' Office's Child Protective Investigations unit verified the case as "bizarre punishment," according to the district, making it likely the School Board will uphold the district's recommendation to fire her.

But, Vann said, that does not help her son, now 6, whose behavior has deteriorated since the incident.

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"Since then he's been having nightmares," she said. "I feel like he was traumatized."

Vann, a mother of five, said her son got in trouble during the last week of kindergarten for spitting and throwing mulch at another child.

He was suspended from summer camp as well, she said.

Vann said the school system did not offer any help for her son and her health insurance will not cover therapy sessions. She was also frustrated by how she was treated by the school and the district as she tried to stay informed about the investigation.

"They kept saying, 'the (Child Protective Investigations probe) can take four weeks,' " she said. "They were rude to me."

While not familiar with details of the case, School Board member Doretha Edgecomb said the normal course would be to offer counseling to the child.

That's what happened at Chamberlain High School, she said, after 17-year-old Brittany Overstreet was injured during an altercation in September with the school security officer.

"I feel we are obligated to make sure that happens," Edgecomb said.

As for why school officials might not have answered Vann's questions about the case, Edgecomb said administrators also must look out for the rights of any employee under investigation.

"We've got to find how we can properly support this youngster while also working to be sure there's due process," she said.

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

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