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Helena educator gets deferred sentence for slapping student who spit on her

January 7, 2017 GMT

HELENA — A special education paraprofessional has admitted to striking a handicapped student who spit on her at Central-Linc Elementary School in Helena.

Sharon Suzanne Cox was originally charged with felony assault on a minor for hitting an 8-year-old boy on Halloween. On Friday, she pleaded guilty to a lesser count of misdemeanor assault.

Cox remains employed by Helena Public Schools. Officials said Cox, an employee of 15 years, remains on paid leave.

In her plea paperwork, Cox wrote she was assisting the boy in using the bathroom when the incident occurred.

“When I bent over him to unbuckle his brace, he unexpectedly spit directly into my face covering my glasses, face and mouth. I immediately reacted reflexively, cuffed him on the side of the face and told him never to spit on anyone,” Cox wrote.

The boy began to cry and she apologized to him, she continued. Cox, 59, said she quickly reported the incident to staff.

“I greatly apologize for my out-of-character action,” she wrote in her plea.

The original felony charge filed in November alleged the boy was injured but does not give any details.

Cox was to make an initial appearance on the lesser charge Friday in Lewis and Clark County Justice Court. She and her attorney instead opted to enter a plea and proceed to sentencing. Cox received a deferred jail sentence of 180 days and a suspended $500 fine.

Jack Copps, the school district’s interim superintendent, said officials have yet to determine the fate of Cox’s employment.

“She did something that was incorrect. She slapped the kid. The kid was clearly a handicapped child,” Copps said after learning the outcome of the court hearing Friday.

“She has worked for the district for a very long period of time and made many contributions to the district. But her conduct in this situation was disturbing and unacceptable,” he added.