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Deputies: Florida bus attendant arrested for striking special needs child on bus

Posted at 11:57 AM, Nov 10, 2017

LAKELAND, Fla. -- A Florida bus attendant has been arrested for child abuse, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. 

Deputies say Brenda Nelson, 65, of Polk City has been charged with one count of child abuse for reportedly striking a special needs child on a school bus. 

On Wednesday, November 8 at about 4:23 p.m. the Transportation Safety Specialist told deputies a citizen complaint was received from a witness who reported she saw a bus attendant strike a female student on the head. The witness was not riding the bus. The witness advised officials that the incident took place on Wednesday, November 8 at approximately 3:58 p.m. 

The bus transports special needs children from the Doris Sanders Learning Center in Lakeland to their homes throughout Polk County, according to the Sheriff's Office. 

Deputies reviewed video footage that shows Nelson attempting to help a special needs child off of the bus. In the video, deputies say the victim was strapped to her seat by a "Houdini Harness" which is designed to significantly restrict her movement and mobility. At about 3:58 p.m., Brenda Nelson is seen on video walking by the victim and hitting her on the top of her head with an open left hand and saying "I'm gonna slap that tongue out of your mouth when I get up there."

Two minutes later, the video shows Nelson walk behind the victim's seat, grab the victim by her hair and violently shake the victim's head back and forth and to the side, approximately four times. Deputies say after shaking the victim's head, Nelson was seen pulling something behind the victim's seat in an effort to tighten her harness. The victim attempted to reach behind her seat in the direction of Nelson and Nelson slapped the victim on the hand twice, according to the affidavit. 

According to the arrest affidavit, Nelson told the bus driver, Bradley Mckean, to take the victim home first, changing the regular bus route. Nelson was seen sitting next to the victim for the remainder of the bus ride and it appeared as if she was attempting to push the victim down into the seat to further limit her mobility. 

Deputies interviewed Nelson the following day. Nelson told deputies she did not remember hitting the victim on the head. She told deputies she was trying to get another child off the school bus and the victim kept on beating on the window and trying to get up out of her seat. Deputies did not observe the victim beating on the window of the school bus or acting in a disruptive manner as described by Nelson. 

Brenda stated, "I guess I done it. I didn't remember hitting her." Brenda also stated, "I must have just lost it. I don't remember doing that. I would never hit one of those kids."

Brenda Nelson was arrested and transported to Polk County Jail.

Due to the Veterans Day holiday, the Sheriff's Office does not have access to the video mentioned in the affidavit. 

The Polk County School Board released the following statement: 

"Our children are the single most precious thing on this earth. At Polk County Public Schools, our most important job is to protect them, to provide them with a safe environment in which they can grow, learn and thrive. This employee squandered the trust of the children and families in her care. She does not embody the values of Polk County Public Schools, and I will not tolerate it. I have instructed my HR staff to immediately begin the process of termination."  Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd

Per the Polk County School Board, Brenda Nelson has worked as a bus attendant since her hire date of May 17, 1983, with the Polk County School District. Her annual salary is approximately $18,400. There is no past disciplinary action in her personnel file.