Florida bus attendant Brenda Nelson, 65, has been employed by the Polk County school district since 1983, but now her job is on the line after security footage captured some disturbing behavior last week.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, it started on Wednesday when Nelson was attending to special needs children from the Doris Sanders Learning Center in Lakeland on their way home from school.
Security footage from the evening bus trip, which has not been released by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, showed Nelson help a student off the bus before turning her attention to a girl with “epileptic condition and severe mobility restrictions.”
According to WPTV, the video shows Nelson hitting the child once on the head, then saying:
“I’m gonna slap that tongue out of your mouth when I get up there.”
The girl was strapped into a “Houdini harness,” which was meant to prevent her from moving. But that allegedly didn’t stop Nelson from abusing her.Polk County Sheriff’s Office
The security footage showed Nelson approach the child from behind and violently shake her head at least four times, causing the child to cry out in pain.
She then tightened the girl’s harness and slapped her hands away when she started to struggle, reports WPTV.
Nelson then instructed the bus driver to switch the bus route in order to drop the girl off first and held her down for the remainder of the ride.
A witness, who was not on the bus, later reported the abuse to police. And on Friday, Nelson was arrested for abuse, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The 65-year-old later told police that the child had been banging on the window, though no such behavior was found on the security footage.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the bus attendant also claimed she had no memory of hitting and shaking the girl. Nelson said:
“I must have just lost it. I don’t remember doing that. I would never hit one of those kids.”
According to the Arc, recent studies show that children with disabilities are roughly three times more likely to suffer abuse than children without disabilities, possibly because they are oftentimes more vulnerable.
At least one in three children with disabilities will face some sort of maltreatment. But in cases like Nelson’s, the employer can help put an end to abuse.
The Polk County school district is now in the process of terminating Nelson, whom they said “squandered the trust of the children and families,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.