A para-educator in Bartow was arrested Monday after police say she struck a disabled student in the face.
Pamela Ann Murphy, 59, faces two counts of child abuse, according to the Bartow Police Department.
Toni Strickland, a school resource officer at Jean O’Dell Learning Center, learned that Murphy was seen hitting a disabled boy at the school on Dec. 4, police said.
Another school employee told officials that while she was on her break she saw Murphy interacting with a 7-year-old disabled boy in the school’s courtyard. The witness said the boy, who doesn’t speak and is intellectually disabled, became upset and began to kick his feet toward Murphy.
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Then, police said, Murphy slapped the child in the face with an open hand.
The Florida Department of Children and Families was notified about the incident, police said.
During the investigation, police learned it wasn’t the first time Murphy was involved in child abuse, they said.
On Nov. 17, police say that Murphy was seen acting inappropriately with a 10-year-old disabled female student at the school.
According to a witness, while in a classroom at the school, the girl grabbed Murphy’s water bottle and began to drink from it. Murphy took the bottle from the child and used inappropriate language.
Murphy then poured the remainder of the water over the child’s head.
When contacted by officers, Murphy denied any wrongdoing and did not want to speak with investigators.
She was arrested without incident and taken to Polk County Jail, police said.