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Paraprofessional accused of force-feeding student jelly, stuffing tissues in another's mouth

Investigators say another employee at the school told them it all started because the two students were not "calming down to her satisfaction."
Credit: Highlands County Sheriff's Office

AVON PARK, Fla. — A paraprofessional at an Avon Park elementary school is accused of force-feeding one student and stuffing another's mouth with a tissue for not calming down.

The Highlands County Sheriff's Office says Cynthia Lee Heiss, 38, was arrested Thursday. Deputies say she is facing felony charges for the abuse of the two students who were part of an Exceptional Student Education pre-kindergarten classroom at Park Elementary. 

Investigators say another employee at the school reported it started when Heiss got angry at the two students, ages three and four, because they were not "calming down to her satisfaction."

That's when Heiss force-fed a packet of jelly to one student and held his mouth closed until he swallowed it, according to the sheriff's office. Then, she stuffed tissue in the other student’s mouth and held his mouth closed for several seconds, investigators said. 

The Highlands County Sheriff's Office says the incident was reported to school leaders and Heiss was placed on leave administrative leave immediately while an investigation took place. 

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