Former Elkhorn South band director sentenced on child abuse charge

A former Elkhorn South High School band director has been sentenced for felony child abuse.
Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 2:42 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A former Elkhorn South High School band director received the maximum sentence for felony child abuse stemming from an inappropriate relationship with a student.

Michelle A. Bluford, 57
Michelle A. Bluford, 57(PHOTO: Douglas County Sheriff's Office)

Michelle Bluford, 57, was sentenced to three years in prison followed by 18 months of supervised release. Bluford had pleaded guilty in July to felony child abuse without injury. In exchange, two counts of third-degree sexual assault without consent were dropped.

Prosecutors say Bluford initiated and nurtured an inappropriate relationship with a former student for about 3 years -- she would allegedly cuddle with the teenager, rubbing her hands over her victim’s body, including her private parts.

“The goals we have...number one is to make sure the victim gets justice,” said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine. “Number two, that we show as a deterrent to people what’s going to happen if you do something like this, particularly in a position of trust; and three, to ensure that maybe that person can’t do it to anybody else.”

As part of her sentence, Bluford will be placed on a child abuse registry. In court, the victim told the judge that many of the inappropriate actions took place inside Elkhorn South High School and that Bluford thought of herself as the victim’s mother. The defense attorney told the judge his client was undergoing a sexual evaluation risk assessment, and argued probation would be best.

“She may not be able to continue that while she’s incarcerated, but we hope the Department of Corrections will afford her the opportunity to continue with the treatment that she has voluntarily started,” said Joe Howard, her defense attorney.

Bluford worked as an educator for 33 years, teaching in the Elkhorn school district for 21.

Tara Nordbrock says 18 years ago as a 16-year-old, a teacher proposed her for sex. She told Bluford and Bluford did not help her. Nordbrock said she came from New York to see her former teacher sentenced.

“It’s just a relief for me to see that she’s not going to have that access to children,” Nordbrock said. “I hope that this is spoken about by the communities so that in three years or whenever her probation is up that she’s not going to have private music lessons with kids.”

Bluford did voluntarily surrender her teaching license. Officials say she will likely serve at least 18 months of her sentence before beginning another 18 months of supervised release with a litany of requirements, including DNA samples and a new psychological evaluation.