Sunday, May 20, 2018
Education

Clearwater teacher fired, accused of abusing special needs students

CLEARWATER — A Clearwater elementary school teacher accused of abusing two special needs students in her classroom for at least two months was fired Tuesday by the Pinellas County School Board.

Melanie Jo Fox, 44, was arrested in late March and charged with two counts of child abuse. She is scheduled for a pretrial hearing before a judge July 15.

Authorities said Fox, a special needs teacher who started working at Skycrest Elementary in 2004, pulled a 6-year-old girl's hair, kicked her, hit her with a book and bound her hands with duct tape.

She also pushed down an 8-year-old boy and bound his hands with a rubber band, Clearwater police said.

The School Board did not discuss Fox before voting to fire her.

The mother of the 8-year-old boy was blunt about the School Board's action: "Well, I'm happy she was fired. That's great," said Cotie Andrade, 30, of Dunedin.

Fox could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"I've never been in trouble in nine years in my teaching career," she said in March, speaking to a judge via closed-circuit video from the Pinellas County Jail. "I've never had a problem. These are strictly allegations."

However, Andrade said she believes Fox routinely ridiculed her son at school. "I want her to pay for her mistakes," Andrade said. "If jail is what the judge gives her, that's fine."

Andrade said her son, Jason, still attends Skycrest. The boy, born with an underdeveloped heart, started complaining around Christmas time about a "big bully" who pushed him down and gave him a bad headache.

"I was furious to learn it was a teacher," Andrade said.

Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224.

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