Florida bus attendant accused of striking student with special needs

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Deputies released the video of an incident where they say a Polk school bus attendant was caught on camera striking a child with special needs.

The incident reportedly occurred on this Polk County Schools’ bus.

Bus surveillance video shows 65-year-old Brenda Nelson of Polk City walking by the child and hitting her on the head with an open hand.

The victim attends the Doris Sanders Learning Center in Lakeland.

“I’m gonna slap that tongue out of your mouth when I get up there,” she is heard telling the student after the slap.

A minute later, she is seen walking behind the victim’s seat, grabbing her by the hair and violently shaking her head back and forth four times. Deputies said the child is heard squealing with pain.

According to detectives, Nelson told the bus driver to disregard the regular bus route and drop the victim off first. She sat beside the victim for the remainder of her ride, and during that time she appeared to be pushing the child down into the seat further “to limit her mobility,” deputies said.

When questioned by detectives, Nelson said the child was misbehaving, beating on the window and trying to leave her seat, however, investigators said the victim was secured by a harness and was not seen acting in a disruptive manner as Nelson described.

“I guess I done it. I didn’t remember hitting her,” Brenda later admitted, “I must have just lost it. I don’t remember doing that. I would never hit one of those kids.”

“She has been removed from the classroom while our Office of Professional Standards investigates,” said Hillsborough County Public Schools spokeswoman Tanya Arja.

Investigators determined the actions were not disciplinary in nature and could have resulted in physical or mental injury to the victim, due to her epileptic condition and severe mobility restrictions.

“We reviewed the video and it’s just disturbing what we saw,” said Scott Wilder with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

“Ms. Nelson, she grabbed the hair of this child and shook her head violently. She hit her on top of the head. It’s just a shame,” said Wilder.

Nelson was taken into custody and charged with child abuse.

She was booked into the Polk County Jail but has since been released after posting bond.

On behalf of the Polk County School Board, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd released this statement following the incident:

Our children are the single most precious thing on this earth. At Polk County Public Schools, our most important job is to protect them, to provide them with a safe environment in which they can grow, learn and thrive. This employee squandered the trust of the children and families in her care. She does not embody the values of Polk County Public Schools, and I will not tolerate it. I have instructed my HR staff to immediately begin the process of termination.”

Nelson has worked as a bus attendant since 1983. Her annual salary is approximately $18,400. There is no past disciplinary action in her personnel file, deputies said.

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