WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Winter Haven Police are searching for two child care workers after investigators say a video surfaced of them abusing a child.
That 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.
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.
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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