Pickens is accused of strapping disabled children in these chairs and isolating them in dark rooms.
FULTON COUNTY, GA (CBS ATLANTA) -
Melanie Pickens, 34, turned herself in to Fulton County authorities Wednesday, hours after a Grand Jury indicted her on 11 counts of child abuse.
The former special education teacher is charged with cruelty to children and false imprisonment in connection with the physical abuse of five disabled students at Hopewell Middle School in Milton.
The alleged abuse occurred between 2004-2007.
According to the indictment, Pickens restrained and isolated students in a dark room, slammed students face-first into lockers and walls, and screamed into their ears.
Pickens allegedly loudly played back a recording of one child's cries directly into his ear.
The Professional Standards Commission revoked Pickens' teaching certification and Pickens resigned in 2007.
Judy Marshall, mother of a student allegedly abuse by Pickens, said she's happy that authorities have arrested Pickens but she questions why it took so long.
A CBS Atlanta News investigation revealed school officials knew Pickens had been abusing children for five years. Even after Pickens left the district, school officials didn't tell parents or police about the abuse.
Another mother, Lisa Williams, said she believes other people should be arrested for allegedly covering up the abuse.
According to sworn testimony from current Fulton County School Police Chief Felipe Usury, his then supervisor instructed him not to investigate the abuse when it was brought to his attention in 2009.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced a criminal investigation in November 2011 after CBS Atlanta News exposed reports of the abuse and questioned why no one had been arrested.
The arrest comes more than five years after the abuse was substantiated.
Several families have brought civil litigation against the district.
Last month, Repheka Persadi, 20, and her mother filed a federal lawsuit alleging Pickens abused her and district officials covered it up.
According to the lawsuit, Pickens screamed at students, burped in their faces, shook her breasts and pressed them and her buttocks in their faces, cursed at the students and sprayed Repheka with Lysol after she passed gas.
Ronald Hatcher, father of a student mentioned in the indictment, filed a federal lawsuit against Pickens, Fulton County School District, board members and school employees earlier this year.
Fulton County Schools settled another suit with Marshall last year for an undisclosed amount.
The criminal case against Pickens will be assigned to a Fulton County Superior Court Judge and scheduled for trial.
Stay with CBSAtlanta.com for updates.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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