Thursday, November 23, 2017
Public safety

Deputies: Veteran Polk County bus attendant ‘violently shook’ special need child’s head

RECOMMENDED READING


A Polk County school bus attendant is facing a child abuse charge after video showed she hit a special needs student in the head and "violently shook" her head back and forth, authorities said.

Brenda Nelson, 65, was charged Friday by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office after a witness filed a complaint over the Wednesday incident. The witness, who was not identified and not on the bus at the time, said that about 4 p.m. that day she saw an attendant strike a child on a bus that transports children with special needs from Doris Sanders Learning Center in Lakeland, according to an affidavit.

Video footage captured Nelson striking the child, who suffers from an epileptic condition and severe mobility restrictions, deputies said. Nelson was hired by the school district in May 1983. Her salary was about $18,400. According to the affidavit, there was no record of her being disciplined during her tenure.

When asked by deputies about the incident, Nelson said she did not remember committing the act.

"I must have just lost it. I don’t remember doing that. I would never hit one of those kids," she said.

Footage reviewed by detectives showed Nelson attempting to help another special needs child off the bus while the victim sat in her seat, strapped down by a harness designed to restrain her movements.

About 3:58 p.m., Nelson is seen in the video, which the sheriff’s office has not released, walking by the child and hitting her head.

"I’m gonna slap that tongue out of your mouth when I get up there," Nelson said, according to the affidavit.

A couple of minutes later, she’s seen walking behind the child, grabbing her by the hair and shaking her head violently from back and forth and to the side about four times. The child can be heard making squealing noises and looks pained, deputies said.

Nelson is then seen pulling something behind the child, who reaches for Nelson. The woman slapped the child’s hand twice, deputies said.

"Turn around," she said to the child, according to the affidavit. Nelson then told the bus driver to drop off the child first instead of following the regular route. For the rest of the trip, she’s seen sitting next to the child, and it appears that she is pushing the child further down in her seat to restrict her mobility, deputies said.

In an interview with deputies, Nelson said the child had been beating on the window and trying to get up out of her seat as she tried to help another student. She said the child misbehaves often and upsets the other children, but deputies said they did not see the child beating on the window or trying to get out of her seat while reviewing the footage.

Polk County school superintendent Jaqueline Byrd said in a statement that staff has begun Nelson’s termination process.

"This employee squandered the trust of the children and families in her care," Byrd said. "She does not embody the values of Polk County Public Schools, and I will not tolerate it."

Contact Melissa Gomez at mgomez@tampabay.com. Follow @melissagomez004.

Comments

Police: Family hit on Dale Mabry Highway in stable condition

TAMPA — The mother and two small children who were hit by a Toyota Camry while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were all in stable condition by Thanksgiving morning, said Tampa police. Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, 5-year-old Jordan Wil...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Hernando deputies make arrest after finding body of dead woman Wednesday

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 32-year-old man Wednesday who they say killed a woman.Joshua Carroll, 32, faces a charge of second-degree murder.Deputies found the body of the woman, who was not identified, at 15013 Old St...
Published: 11/22/17
Tampa husband gets life, wife 40 years for sexual assault on 7-year-old

Tampa husband gets life, wife 40 years for sexual assault on 7-year-old

TAMPA — The mother of a 7-year-old girl stood weeping in a federal courtroom, demanding lifelong prison sentences for the Tampa couple who sexually assaulted her daughter while the girl’s own father took videos and pictures. "I don’t want my child to...
Published: 11/22/17
Details emerge in suicide of Hernando school volunteer accused of sexual abuse

Details emerge in suicide of Hernando school volunteer accused of sexual abuse

A former Brooksville school volunteer accused of sexually assaulting teenage foreign exchange students who were under his care was found dead last week, a day before he was due in court on the charges.The body of Bruce McAllister was found at the bas...
Published: 11/22/17
Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

PORT RICHEY — Crews from Pasco County fire rescue were battling a fire Wednesday morning that sent smoke pouring through the roof at the Brass Flamingo adult club, 9034 U.S. 19.The fire forced the closing of U.S. 19 but traffic was flowing again by 6...
Published: 11/22/17
Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

TAMPA — Before the killings began, Bob and Vivian Fiallo envisioned having Thanksgiving at their North Carolina mountain getaway.Most years, the couple spends the holiday at their tidy, brick-faced home on North Olney Avenue, in the heart of Southeas...
Published: 11/22/17
Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

CLEARWATER — The former Pepin Academies executive director who died in a watercraft and boat collision on Sept. 23 had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the level at which the state presumes someone is impaired, a toxicology report showed. Just befo...
Published: 11/21/17
Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

NEW PORT RICHEY — A man who ended a series of burglaries by breaking into the home of a sleeping woman, where he climbed into her bed, was arrested Monday afternoon, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Russel Smith, 42, now faces three felony char...
Published: 11/21/17

28-year-old man shot dead in Spring Hill home, deputies say

SPRING HILL — A 28-year-old man was shot and killed inside a Spring Hill home Monday night, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies responded to at least two separate 911 calls about 8:15 p.m., in which callers reported shots being...
Published: 11/21/17