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Polk County

Bartow school employee arrested, charged with 2 counts of child abuse

BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) - A Jean O'Dell Learning Center employee was arrested and charged with two counts of child abuse.

On Monday, the school resource officer was advised of an incident of child abuse that occurred the previous week.

Officer Toni Strickland learned that on Dec. 4, a para-educator, identified as Pamela Murphy, was seen striking a disabled student on the face.

Based on the investigation, it was determined the incident was witnessed by another para-educator, who confirmed that she saw Murphy interacting with the 7-year-old student in the school's courtyard.

The other para-educator advised that the male student, who is non-verbal and intellectually disabled, became upset and began to kick his feet toward Murphy.

The witness said she saw Murphy strike the child on the face with an open hand.

The witness also said she observed Murphy act inappropriately with a 10-year-old disabled girl at the school.

The child had Murphy's water bottle and began to drink from it in that incident.

When she saw this, Murphy allegedly took the bottle from the child and called her a name.

She then allegedly poured the remainder of the bottle over the child's head.

No injuries were reported in either incident.

Murphy denied any wrongdoing to officers and refused to speak with investigators.

She was arrested and charged with two counts of child abuse.

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