Teacher ‘repeatedly’ punches and pushes 4-year-old at Florida preschool, deputies say

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A teacher at a Florida preschool and day care facility was arrested and charged with felony child abuse after a witness shot video of her punching, pushing and yelling at one of her students, authorities said.

Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies say that just before 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10, officers responded to a witness report at KinderCare Learning Center in Dunedin, a coastal town about 25 miles west of Tampa.

The caller told deputies they saw and videotaped Ashley Richards, 32, on the playground yelling at a student and “repeatedly punching the child with both an open and closed fist to the back and side of the head,” according to the arrest report.

The victim was 4 years old.

Deputies say the teacher, who had been an employee at KinderCare since March 2021, was also recorded “pushing the child to the ground and yelling ‘Do you want me to hit you?’”

KinderCare told McClatchy News that Richards has been fired since the incident.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the children in our care,” the child care and education company, which has centers across the country, 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.”

Richards was charged with one count of child abuse, though the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office noted this is an open and active investigation.

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