DUNEDIN, Fla. (WFLA) — A Dunedin Kindercare employee was arrested on Wednesday after a witness told Pinellas County deputies she repeatedly punched a child in the head.

According to a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrest report, a witness heard screaming coming from the playground area and found Ashley Richards, 32, yelling at a 4-year-old boy and “repeatedly punching him with both an open hand and closed fist.” After the child was reportedly shoved to the ground, the witness began filming.

Deputies said the video showed Richards, a preschool teacher, pulling the child into her lap, punching him in the head and pushing him to the ground. Richardson reportedly yelled at the child, “Do you want me to hit you?”

After he stood back up, the affidavit states Richards “yanked the child by his arm and shirt towards her”. He sat down next to her on a bench and she reportedly put her arm around his “shoulder and neck area”.

When deputies interviewed the child after the incident, he told them that he “got in trouble” and Richards was punishing him for fighting with his brother. Richards reportedly told deputies that she put her hand over the child’s mouth because he was laughing at her, but she did not hit him. She claimed she was consoling him.

Richards was taken to the Pinellas County Jail and charged with child abuse. Deputies said she has been employed at Kindercare since March 2021 and has been placed on administrative leave.

In a statement to News Channel 8, Kindercare said: “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the children in our care. The teacher’s alleged actions do not reflect who we are or the training we provide our teachers. We are working with the police to determine what may or may not have happened. In the meantime, the teacher involved is on administrative leave until further notice.