Hillsborough County teacher arrested for punching student with autism: HCSO

A Hillsborough County teacher was arrested after detectives say he punched a 9-year-old student with autism. 

Prechae Rodriguez, 39, a Behavior Support Teacher at Eisenhower Exceptional Center, was arrested on Monday for the abuse of a student with autism who is also non-verbal, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. 


Photo courtesy: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

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According to Casey Minuto, a spokesperson with HCSO, the teacher and the student were walking out of the gym when the student slapped Rodriguez. That's when the teacher punched the child in the face, causing the child to fall to the ground.

The school district said the incident was reported immediately, and the child was cared for. District officials said Rodriguez has been terminated.

"Mr. Rodriguez was removed from the school while the investigation was going on and has now been terminated from the district," a spokesperson for Hillsborough County Public Schools said. "We are deeply disturbed by the charges. The safety and wellbeing of our students is our top priority."

He was hired in August 2023, and had no other issues during his employment, according to Hillsborough County schools.

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"I am disgusted by the actions of this individual who was not only in a position of authority and trust but was given the responsibility to protect our most vulnerable," Sheriff Chad Chronister said. "No child, under any circumstance, should be subject to this level of violence."

According to HCSO, Rodriguez is facing one count of child abuse. This is an active investigation. 

"There is no place for the abuse of children in our schools or in our community, and our detectives will continue to work to ensure that all of our students are protected," Chronister said.