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Pinellas teacher accused of child abuse faces firing

A Skycrest Elementary School teacher faces firing after being accused of abusing two special needs students in her classroom earlier this year.

Melanie Jo Fox, 44, of Clearwater, was arrested in late March and charged with two counts of child abuse. She was accused of pulling a 6-year-old girl's hair, hitting her with a book, kicking her and binding her hands with tape. Clearwater police said she pushed an 8-year-old boy and bound his wrists with a rubber band.

Classroom assistants also said Fox regularly belittled students.

Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Mike Grego has recommended to the School Board that Fox be fired, effective Tuesday. Fox has been on paid administrative leave since the week of her arrest; she was removed from contact with children prior to her arrest.

Board members are expected to vote on Grego's recommendation Tuesday.

Fox had no prior discipline at the school district. According to the district, Fox denied most of the allegations. She did, however, admit to putting "small pieces" of tape on a child's hands for a few seconds because "it made her laugh." She also said she wrapped a rubber band around a child's wrist three times to show him that it "should be loose." That was only after the child wrapped the band around his finger, causing it to turn purple, she said.

The alleged abuse occurred over a two-month period, but it's unclear why it wasn't detected sooner. District officials began their own investigation a few days before Fox's arrest. That investigation still is under way, which means further details about the case can't be released, said Melanie Marquez Parra, a district spokeswoman.

The school district's investigation is separate from law enforcement actions. Fox, who was released from jail on bail, is scheduled to appear again in court in July.

Fox was hired full time at Skycrest Elementary in late 2005, after working at the school as an hourly teacher. She earns about $38,300 a year.

Fox can appeal Grego's recommendation to the state. If she does, she will be placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at cfitzpatrick@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8846. Follow her on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

Pinellas teacher accused of child abuse faces firing 06/06/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 12:08am]
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