2 sisters sue Tampa Prep, ex-swim coach
They say the background check of the coach, now charged with video voyeurism, fell short.
By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published January 19, 2007
TAMPA - As a high school student, Kimberly Brabson III was disciplined for stealing girls' panties from a locker room.
As a swim coach at a private Tampa school, he is now accused of secretly videotaping young female students in the nude.
Two of those girls filed suit Thursday, claiming, among other charges, that Tampa Preparatory School didn't thoroughly check Brabson's past before entrusting him with children and young teens.
Another family has hired an attorney to represent them in the matter. Police say the number of victims continues to grow.
"In a way this is almost like a theft or robbery of their youth," said Tom Carey, a prominent Clearwater attorney and father of the plaintiffs.
Brabson's behavior betrayed students' trust, an ugly loss of innocence, one of Carey's daughters said.
"I was disturbed," she said. "It was so creepy and violating."
She spoke to the Times on the condition her name be withheld because of the nature of the case.
The suit marks the latest twist in the scandal at the private school since the arrest of Brabson, a former crew and swimming coach. He is accused of taping dozens of 10- to 15-year-old girls as they tried on bathing suits at his request.
Brabson, 29, faces 10 counts of video voyeurism, a misdemeanor. He is out of jail and did not return a call for comment. Both Tampa Prep and Brabson were named as defendants in the suit.
Carey's daughters' suit says the school was negligent in employing Brabson, failed to ensure student safety, invaded student privacy and inflicted emotional distress on the girls.
D. Gordon MacLeod, head of school at Tampa Prep, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The school is reviewing its policies and procedures.
"We're looking at what we do in the school - how we hire, how we evaluate and how we keep an eye on what people are doing," MacLeod said.
He added that the school checks references for teachers, but he declined to say who was a reference for Brabson, whose behavior MacLeod called "completely inappropriate."
No fond memories of his high school years
If Tampa Prep administrators had called Brabson's classmates at Radnor High School in suburban Philadelphia, they would have gotten an earful.
"Oh my God, this is so predictable," Michael Cutler recalled thinking when he learned of Brabson's arrest.
In the halls of Radnor High, Brabson was known as a loner. He had few friends. When he went back for his five-year reunion, one classmate recalled, Brabson stood in a corner, alone.
"He didn't really have any friends, and everybody knew the rumors," said classmate Doug DeMarco. The rumors were that he snatched girls' panties from a locker room, DeMarco said.
"I don't think he had one friend in high school," Cutler said. "People would pass him in the hallway and give him a dirty look."
A Radnor administrator confirmed Brabson got in trouble for his behavior.
"There was a related incident when he was a student," said Mark Schellenger, the school's athletic director. "It was a student-on-student incident. It was kept in-house. Standard disciplinary measures were taken."
After graduating from high school in 1995, Brabson earned a bachelor's degree at West Virginia University in 2000, said university spokeswoman Janey Cink. He began work on a master's degree but never finished.
In 2001, he was a graduate assistant for the women's crew team, a club sport. A team coach wouldn't comment about his time with the team.
Brabson kept in touch, at least loosely, with Radnor alums, setting up an account at the Web site classmates.com. According to his profile, he enjoys dining, movies and listening to music. "I can't wait to have children," he wrote.
From 2000 to 2001, Brabson also took a part-time job teaching physical education at Greensburg Central Catholic High School, about 45 minutes east of Pittsburgh, said Father Dan Blout, the head of the school.
Brabson was never employed full-time and left of his own accord, Blout said.
Former Greensburg student Jason Cordial, now 22, said Brabson seemed like a nice guy.
"I've never seen him disrespect anybody at all," Cordial said.
Blout declined to comment on Brabson's performance, citing school policy. Blout added that he didn't recall being asked for a reference from Tampa Prep.
Brabson joined Tampa Prep's faculty in 2001.
He had a complaint lodged against him last year when a student accused him of asking her to try on a swimsuit, MacLeod said. Three school officials spoke with him, telling him his behavior was inappropriate. Police were not contacted.
"We asked him to stop," MacLeod said. "I guess he didn't."
MacLeod fired Brabson in November after students again alleged odd behavior by the teacher. Someone contacted police, who searched Brabson's office, finding a hidden camera.
Charges aren't strong enough, lawyers say
Brabson, who is married with a 2-year-old child and another on the way, then took a job at Health Point Management Services, a health care billing company. The company says he no longer works there.
Mark Gelman, the Jacksonville attorney who represents another victim, said he was stunned to learn Brabson faced only misdemeanor charges.
Carey also expressed anger that Brabson did not face felony charges. He plans to meet with state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, about it.
"I think it's a gap in the law," he said.
Carey's daughter said nothing prepared her for seeing her image on a cropped photograph at police headquarters.
"It was humiliating almost," she recalled. "Who is that sick? It's just creepy."Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 813 226-3373 or email@example.com.
[Last modified January 19, 2007, 00:40:39]
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