FLORIDA’S PINELLAS COUNTY: Ashley Richards, 32, a preschool teacher from Dunedin, Florida, was arrested Wednesday, August 10, after a disturbing incident in which she repeatedly punched and punched a four-year-old child in the head. She was accused of criminal child molestation and was released from the Kindercare Learning Center preschool.
According to authorities, she hit the child more than once. An arrest document from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said a witness heard screams coming from the direction of the playground. As she walked over, she observed the preschool teacher repeatedly hit the boy “with both an open hand and a closed fist on the back of the head and the side of the head.”
Ashley Richards, 32, faces child abuse charges
The witness claimed that Richards even shoved the boy while he was still attacking him, knocking him to the ground. This motivated the witness to pull out her phone and begin videotaping what happened. Should I hit you? In the video clip, the teacher can be heard yelling at the boy.
Deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene and questioned both Richards and the four-year-old. Richards allegedly denied hitting the child during questioning. The boy laughed at her and she said she just put her palm to his lips. She went on to say that she even comforted the boy.
However, the then four-year-old preschooler claimed to authorities the teacher hit him “as a form of punishment” after he got into trouble over the argument with his brother. She hit him, hit him in the head and in the eye, he continued.
Richards has been on administrative leave since her arrest. In March 2021, she had started work as a preschool teacher at the Kindercare Learning Center in Dunedin, Florida. She was taken to the Pinellas County Jail on Aug. 10 after officers charged her with a felony abuse. According to police records, she was released later that same day after posting $5,000 bail.
In response to the event, the Kindercare Learning Center reportedly said: “The well-being of the children in our care is our top priority. The teacher’s reported behavior does not represent who we are or what direction we give our teachers.”