Cocoa Beach teacher accused of hitting student with autism in the face

Candice Williamson Bartell, 53, arrested at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – A teacher at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in Cocoa Beach was arrested on allegations that she struck a girl with autism in the face, according to police.

Cocoa Beach police said Candice Williamson Bartell, 53, was arrested Tuesday at the elementary school.

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Investigators said Bartell was caught on camera hitting the child near her nose. The teacher claimed it was a friendly tap and something she commonly did when that student gets excited, according to the arrest affidavit.

‘’She did say that this was normal, but all the information, in reference to the investigation, determined that was not the case,’’ Detective Sergeant Tom Cooper said.

School staff told investigators that teachers are not supposed to touch students’ faces for any reason, records show. Police said the girl’s father also confirmed the student does not like to be touched around her face when she’s excited.

Officers said the video shows the student standing closely behind the teacher when Bartell brought her left hand around, hitting the girl in the nose. The girl then recoils and grabs her face after the strike, records show.

Bartell faces a charge of child abuse without great bodily harm.

Her family Friday told News 6 she’s innocent and she loves her students.

Brevard Public Schools said this is the first time the 53-year-old is in trouble since joining the district 27 years ago and she holds a ‘’highly effective’' rating on her recent performance review.

The school district said she’s now on paid administrative leave while she’s out of jail on bond.

News 6 asked police and the school district to see the video.

It wasn’t shared Friday.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.