Parent accuses teacher of hitting son
By MELANIE AVE
Published May 20, 2006
TAMPA - Hillsborough County school officials are investigating allegations of a second round of misconduct this year by a Citrus Park Elementary School teacher who, in December, encouraged his students to tape shut their own mouths.
Louis Kucinski, 48, was removed from his third-grade science classroom Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation into accusations he pinched, hit and pushed three students, said Linda Kipley, the school district's general manager of professional standards.
Kipley said the teacher will remain on paid status but will be assigned to other duties not involving students for the final week of the school year, which ends Thursday.
Kucinski, a Hillsborough teacher since 1989, did not return a message seeking comment.
Kipley did not specify when the alleged incidents occurred.
Parent Jacqueline Murphy said they all happened on the same day, May 4. She said he hit or manhandled four students, including her son, and made half a class cry as they left his classroom. The students ended up in the assistant principal's office.
She sent a letter to superintendent MaryEllen Elia this week, angered that Kucinski was still teaching.
She said he hit her 9-year-old son in the side with a ruler when the boy went to Kucinski's desk asking for help. She said the boy still had a red mark on his side at the end of the day even though he was hit in the late morning.
Before Kucinski was removed, Murphy said, her son did not want to go to school for fear of seeing the teacher. She said the boy has been having nightmares and visibly shakes when he discusses school.
She said the teacher should not be returned to any classroom.
"He doesn't need to be around children or making decisions around children," she said.
Kucinski's employee evaluation from 2004, the most recent available, shows no problems, only satisfactory marks. "Mr. Kucinski has made improvement in all areas," wrote Citrus Park Elementary principal Joan Bookman.
On Dec. 5, school district officials say, Kucinski told some of his 16 students to place brown wrapping tape on their mouths because they would not be quiet.
When the children went to another class, their mouths remained taped. Another teacher reported the incident to the assistant principal, who notified district officials.
Murphy said her son was in that class but he refused to put tape on his mouth.
Kucinski received a letter of reprimand for the taping incident. He also received letters of caution in 2001 and 2002, both for using poor judgement. In the 2001 incident, he was told to refrain from touching students.
Melanie Ave can be reached at 813 226-3400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.