NewsPolk County


Polk Co. school bus attendant accused of attacking kids with special needs, disabled adults

Posted at 10:35 PM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-10 19:36:59-04

POLK COUNTY, Fla. -- A school bus attendant is accused of attacking three children with special needs and several adults with disabilities.

According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, a girl with special needs who rides the bus to Doris A. Sanders Learning Center told the school staff that 43-year-old Juanita Tappin hit her. Deputies said the girl had two red welts on her face.

Following investigations, deputies said Tappin was caught on the bus surveillance video hitting the girl 11 separate times "by popping her with a rubber band and hitting her on her face and neck." Deputies said Tappin was also seen punching other people, hitting others with a hard plastic seat belt cutter tool and was seen snapping rubber bands on their faces and necks.

The victims were three children with special needs and three adults with disabilities, deputies said.

Deputies said most of the students who ride the bus were nonverbal, making it harder for investigators to gather witness or subject accounts. Some of the students were strapped into their seats with harnesses and unable to physically move away from Tappin during the attacks, deputies said.

"This suspect will be held accountable for her reprehensible abuse against the most vulnerable of victims. In the video, the innocent children can be seen cowering in fear. She should never have access to children again," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in a release.

According to deputies, Tappin denied hitting the students and told detectives she was acting in a playful manner.

Tappin was charged with three counts of child abuse and three counts of abuse of a disabled adult.

Deputies said Tappin was placed on administrative leave. She was hired in 2014 and there were no past disciplinary actions in her personnel file, deputies said.

"We count on our transportation staff to be courteous, professional and caring. Our students deserve peaceful rides free of aggravation and unkindness. The unacceptable allegations against this bus attendant are very troubling. If true, I will recommend that this employee be fired. We are conducting an internal investigation, and the employee has been placed on administrative leave," said Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd in a release.