Daycare workers turn themselves in after allegedly taunting boy with autism

The former child-care workers were seen on video mocking a boy with autism.

Update on Sept. 22, 2017: WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Two child care workers shown on Snapchat video taunting and abusing a child with autism have turned themselves into the Winter Haven Police Department.

Alexus Henderson and Kaderrica Smith were teacher's aides at Our Children's of Winter Haven, a private school for students with special needs.

Henderson is charged with child neglect and bonded out of jail.

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Smith faces charges of child abuse and battery. At a court appearance Friday, the judge set her bond at $5,000. Smith has three kids and coaches little league and cheerleading. A condition of her bond is that she can't be around kids, including her own.

The school wouldn't talk to 10News. They referred us to their attorney, who said the two women passed their background checks when they were hired, so they had no criminal history. They also completed more than 20 hours of crisis management training, he explained.

“As an autism parent, I was angry,” Rae Ryan, whose son Tommy went to Our Children’s a couple of years ago, said. “I was upset.”

Ryan said she pulled her son from the school after she saw an employee mistreating a student.

“(Dragging a child down the hallway by their feet and legs,” she explained.

The Department of Education tells 10News neither Henderson nor Smith have teaching certifications. In fact, paraeducators, whether at public or private schools, don't need to. That means you can't look up information about them.

“I often wondered after I pulled him out of Our Children's of Winter Haven, exactly who had certifications and who didn't,” Ryan said.

She suggests a database for paraeducators, just like the one for teachers.

She’s glad her son no longer goes to Our Children’s. The school’s lawyer said the boy in the video still does.
 

Original Story on Sept. 21, 2017: WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Winter Haven Police are searching for two child care workers after investigators say a video surfaced of them abusing a child.

The child has autism.

The two suspects are 26-year-old Kadericca Smith and 19-year-old Alexis Henderson. Our Children's Academy in Winter Haven is where police say this incident happened. 

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Watching the cell phone video released brought Itzel Arteaga to tears.

"Yeah, I'm sorry,” said Arteaga before taking a long pause to compose herself, “it's not OK."

In the video, you see two school child care workers taunting and laughing at an 8-year-old boy who police say has autism and other developmental disorders. They're clearly having trouble working with the 8-year-old, but instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, they provoke him.

“Chicken, chicken, chicken,” screams a woman as she’s laughing. This happens after the boy comes out from hiding under a desk.

At one point, one of the women is seen holding both of his arms and then uses her leg to swipe the child’s legs right out from under him. Police say the video was posted to Snapchat.

"That's not  the way treat to anybody. Not just kids with disabilities, typical kids. Anybody. A human being!” said an emotional Arteaga. She’s a Behavioral Analyst with the group, “B is for Behavior," which teaches parents and educators how to work with children who have developmental needs, like the boy in the video.

Neither she nor her company are connected to Our Children's Academy. 

Police were first made aware of this on Sept. 1 and say in an initial interview, both women “felt they were acting appropriately” and did nothing wrong. At the time, police hadn't pressed charges because DCF also needed to interview them.

That interview was conducted on Sept. 15, according to police. Neither suspect could be found following once it was determined a criminal act had occurred.

Arteaga tells WTSP, “These schools that are supposed to be serving our children need to train more!"

Police issued a similar statement. 

“These workers were supposed to be trained in how to handle children with behavioral issues. They are trained to de-escalate situations, but that obviously did not happen,” said Chief Charlie Bird.

WTSP left a message and stopped by the school for a statement but have not heard back.

Police say the school immediately fired the two women following the incident. Both also had blocks placed on their certifications so they cannot be employed by other childcare facilities.

Anyone with information should contact the Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-8477. Calls can be anonymous and information may be eligible for a cash reward. For more information, check out this website.

The 8-year-old did not require medical attention.

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© 2017 WTSP-TV


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