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Polk School Bus Attendant Charged With Abusing Special Needs Children, Adults

May 10, 2019

The Polk County Sheriff's office has arrested a school bus attendant for abusing children and adults in her charge. 

Authorities have charged 43-year-old Juanita Tappin with child abuse and abuse of a disabled adult.

A little girl with special needs reported Tappin. 

The girl told the school nurse she'd been hurt by her bus attendant, and the nurse said there were red welts on her face. 

Detectives reviewed the on-board video from the bus, and saw Tappin hit the girl 11 different times, by snapping a rubber band on her face and neck. 

Tappin told deputies she was "acting a playful manner."

But authorities said the abuse was "intentional, malicious and unprovoked."

Most of the children who rode the bus Tappin worked on are non-verbal. And unable to communicate what happened to them or what they witnessed.

According to the Polk Sheriff’s Office, some of the students ride the bus strapped into their seats, so they would not have been able to move away from Tappin during the abuse. 

Polk Sheriff Grady Judd 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."

According to Polk County Public Schools, Tappin has been employed with the district since January, 2014. There is no past disciplinary action in her personnel file.

Polk Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd released the following statement regarding Tappin:

"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."