POLK COUNTY, Fla. — A school bus aide here is facing charges for allegedly attacking several special-needs students and adults with disabilities, police said.
Juanita Tappin with Polk County Public Schools was arrested earlier this month after a special-needs student reported that she had been hit by her bus aide, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities said that school bus surveillance video shows Tappin striking the student 11 times “by popping her with a rubber band and hitting her on her face and neck,” and punching other passengers, hitting them with a hard plastic seat belt cutter tool, and snapping rubber bands on their faces and necks.
Tappin, who denied hitting the students, told detectives she was acting in a “playful manner,” according to authorities. She was charged with six felony counts of abuse of special-needs children and disabled adults.
On Wednesday, investigators said, according to another news release from the Sheriff's Office, that after reviewing 30 days’ worth of bus video, Tappin was seen abusing two more passengers with special needs, and engaging in additional attacks against those who were previously identified. She was charged with two more counts of abuse.
Authorities said that the attacks occurred while the students were riding the bus to school, and that most of the students, who are nonverbal, were unable to report the abuse. Tappin was suspended without pay on May 15, and will be terminated at the Polk County Public Schools’ board meeting on June 18, according to authorities.