[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
A Florida preschool teacher is facing felony child abuse charges after allegedly striking a 4-year-old boy repeatedly on a school playground.
According to a press release from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Ashley Richards (above) was cuffed and charged on Wednesday with one count of child abuse in the third degree. The 32-year-old was allegedly recorded punching a young boy in the head on the playground of KinderCare Learning Center in Dunedin thanks to a witness who heard the boy’s screams and captured the alleged incident on their cell phone.
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The press release stated:
“The witness observed Richards yelling at the victim and repeatedly punching the child with both an open and closed fist to the back and side of the head. Richards was also observed pushing the child to the ground and yelling ‘Do you want me to hit you?’ The incident was captured on the witness’ cell phone.”
Officials viewed the cell phone footage, according to an arrest affidavit, which reportedly showed the teacher pulling the boy over her legs and repeatedly punching him as he shouted in pain. The witness told police they started recording the incident after observing the teacher push the 4-year-old to the ground.
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When police interviewed the boy, the child said he was fighting with his brother and was hit by Richards “as a form of punishment,” the affidavit stated. Authorities then interviewed Richards, who allegedly denied punching or striking the child; she claimed the boy was upset and she was simply consoling him.
Colleen Moran, the public relations manager for KinderCare, where Richards has worked as a preschool teacher since March 2021, said the teacher has been placed on “administrative leave” as authorities investigate the incident. The rep said in a statement:
“The teacher’s alleged actions do not reflect who we are or the training we provide our teachers. We are working with the police to determine what may or may not have happened. In the meantime, the teacher involved is on administrative leave until further notice.”
Richards has been released from the Pinellas County Jail on $5,000 bond and has not yet entered a plea. Based on these harrowing details, it sounds like she’s gonna have a hard time proving her innocence.
[Image via Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office]