A former preschool teacher in Florida has been charged with felony child abuse after deputies say she was seen punching a 4-year-old child in the head multiple times earlier this week.
Ashley Richards, 32, was arrested on Wednesday at the Kindercare Learning Center in Dunedin, Florida, for reportedly punching a child in the head multiple times, according to authorities.
A observer informed the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office that she did hear screams of agony from the playground and glanced over to see Richards pummeling the back of the head and side of the head with “both an open hand and a closed fist,” according to an arrest affidavit.
According to authorities, the unnamed witness also informed deputies that she witnessed Richards push the child to the ground, provoking the bystander to pull out her mobile phone and begin filming the rest of the encounter.
“Do you want me to hit you?” According to the affidavit, Richards can be heard in the recording asking the 4-year-old.
Deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene and interrogated both Richards and the 4-year-old.
According to the sheriff’s office, Richards outright rejected ever whacking or striking the child, but she later confessed to placing her hand over his mouth to prevent him from laughing.
The 4-year-old provided a different account of what happened.
According to the arrest affidavit, the child told officers that Richards struck him “as a form of punishment,” hitting his head and eye after he fought with his brother.
The teacher was placed on administrative leave “until further notice,” according to Kindercare Learning Center, before being fired amid an ongoing investigation.
According to jail records, Richards was initially booked into the Pinellas County Jail before being released on a $5,000 bond.