Clay County gym teacher charged with child abuse

A Clay County junior high school teacher was arrested on a felony child abuse charge last week, accused of putting a 13-year-old student in a choke hold during a confrontation. The incident began when gym teacher Michael Ford, 42, accused the student of breaking a chair, which the student denied, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Ford is accused of threatening that the student would end up in the hospital if Ford’s truck was spray-painted and, after the student swore at the teacher, Ford then put the student in a choke hold and shoved him against a railing, the newspaper reported.

Ford was charged with child abuse without causing great bodily harm in Florida, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. Had the student suffered a serious injury or permanent disability or disfigurement, Ford could have been charged with a second-degree felony and would have been facing up to 15 years in prison. Ford was released on bail following his arrest in this Clay County Child Abuse case and has been on paid leave from the Clay County schools since April 3, a day after the alleged incident, the newspaper reported. While it’s not entirely uncommon for a teacher to be disciplined and even terminated for inappropriate behavior or losing his or her temper with a student, criminal charges are rare. There are three types of acts that would qualify as child abuse. In this Clay County Child Abuse case, the state will likely try to prove that Ford committed “an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.”

Now, a possible defense for Ford in this Clay County Child Abuse Case is that he used enough force to detain and make his point with the student and intentionally did not hold on long enough or hard enough to injure the child. If he was trying to hurt the student, the defense may argue, Ford would have – especially since he’s a grown man and the student is only 13. Regardless, Ford’s teaching days in Clay County are likely over just because of these allegations. He has been with the district since, 2004, but was disciplined in November for making inappropriate comments to students, the newspaper reported. From the perspective of a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney, there is a significant difference between what the school district chooses to do and what is proper in a court of law. Employers can factor in the example the teacher is setting, precedent from similar issues, etc., when making a decision on keeping an employee. The standard is far higher in a criminal courtroom. The Clay County Child Abuse Charges against Ford must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for him to be found guilty as charged.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.