Teacher accused of abuse appears in court - FOX 13 News

Teacher accused of abuse appears in court

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CLEARWATER (FOX 13) -

A special needs teacher from Skycrest Elementary was granted bond, but she can't have any contact with children under the age of 18.

In court, Melanie Fox defended herself.

"I've never been in trouble in nine years of my teaching career. I've never had a problem. These are strictly allegations. I've never been in jail. I've never been in trouble with DCF," she said.

She asked for bond, telling the judge she is a single mother of two children.

Police say a tip came in to an abuse hotline. Detectives say Fox bound a 6-year-old girl's hands with tape. They also say she hit her with a book and pulled her hair.

Fox is also accused of pushing an 8-year-old boy down and binding his hands with rubber bands.

That young boy is Cotie Andrade's son, Jason. Andrade was in court on Friday, urging the judge to keep Fox in jail.

Andrade told FOX 13 her son is having after-effects from this whole incident.

"Today he was picked up early because he was throwing up at school. So I don't know how this really is affecting him. I know he watched the news with us last night because I wanted him to understand that what he did was right, in letting us know this bully that he's been telling me about for two months, is the bully that's behind bars today," she said.

But another woman praised Melanie Fox. Catherine Baggett told the judge her daughter would not be where she is today, if it wasn't for the care of Miss Fox.

"My daughter Alexis was progressing and doing well, starting to move up instead of backwards like she was before," Baggett said.

She told the judge she would help post bond for the teacher.

This case is just the latest in a string of abuse allegations by special needs teachers, aides or bus drivers. Earlier this week, the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office released video of an incident on a school bus.Stephanie Wilkerson was arrested for abuse after she is seen pushing an autistic girl off the bus with her foot.

Attorney Mark Kamleiter specializes in special needs education cases. He says teachers need more training on how to handle kids behaviors.

He is appalled that in the Skycrest Elementary case -- it's reported other adults knew about the abuse but didn't tell anyone.

"As teachers, we have to self-regulate. when we see things, we have to speak up. I'm just afraid there's a code of silence, where people don't talk about it when they see it," Kamleiter said.

Kamleiter says it's been going on for years. He calls it a dirty little secret. But he says it's time to shed light on it and make drastic changes.

"Our children with disabilities are being treated as 2nd class citizens and not getting the support and help that they need," he said.

Many of these special needs children can't speak up for themselves. Cotie Andrade feels she would never have known about the abuse with her son, if it wasn't for that tipster.

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