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Deputies: Teacher forced student to touch her breasts

7:26 PM, Feb 5, 2010   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida --  News of the arrest of a 6th grade geography teacher spread fast among the student body of Farnell Middle School.

Eighth grader Kathleen Newell says she found out on Facebook.

"It's a surprise," she said.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies arrested 39-year-old Tammy Clinton at the school on Thursday, accusing her of not only forcing a 14-year-old student to touch her breasts and fondling his buttocks, but twice enticing him to leave the campus with her so they could commit a sexual act.  The most recent attempt was the day of the arrest, deputies said.  She bonded out of jail early Friday morning.

"They didn't believe it because they said she was really friendly, that she was their favorite teacher," Kathleen Newell said of her friends' reaction to the arrest.

Her mom, Luisa Newell, chimed in, "That's the thing, sometimes teachers can be so friendly. You just don't know how far they can go."

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says Clinton admitted to the accusations after her arrest.

While Newell said she was disturbed by the news, she still considers Farnell a good school and credited the principal for quickly informing parents via a telephone message.

"It can happen anywhere," said Newell.

We tried to get Tammy Clinton's side of the story, but she would not let us in her gated Odessa community to talk.

Clinton has been placed on paid suspension.  The school district says it will take a vote by the school board to put her on unpaid suspension while the case is investigated.

Other than the most recent accusations, Clinton had a clean history with the district.

According to school district records, Tammy Clinton not only received ethics and conduct training once during her eight years with with the school, but twice.

Charles Fleming, the head of the department that trains the district's teachers, says Clinton was trained in 2004 and again in 2008 when the district beefed up the training in response to the Debra LaFave case.

"When we started having issues a few years ago in the community, we added a refresher course, if you want to use it that way. We called it an update where we talked  more specifically about student-teacher relationships, about how inappropriate that is and to the higher standard that all educators are held to," Fleming told 10 Connects.

Teachers are given a handbook with a list of common sense guidelines.

Right at the top, you'll find, "Maintain a professional barrier between you and the students.  You are the adult, the teacher and the professional."

"Do not flirt with students."

"Keep your hands and other body parts to yourself."

Laura Kadechka, 10 Connects

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