POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Neighbors say they’re confused by allegations of abuse by a bus attendant in Polk County.
Juanity Tappin was charged Thursday with three counts of child abuse and three counts of abuse of a disabled adult. She was released from jail Saturday after posting a $6,000 bond.
Tappin is accused of slapping and punching disabled adults and children. Detectives began investigating the bus attendant when a school nurse found welts on the side of a student’s face. That student was one of the few victims able to report the abuse, given that most on the bus are non-verbal, authorities said.
Detectives reviewed surveillance video, which reportedly shows Tappin slap three disabled children several times with a rubber band, as well as punch them and hit them with a “hard plastic seatbelt cutter,” authorities said.
When news of the accusations broke, parents were upset.
“We’re sad that this could happen. We’re confused. I don’t even know how to feel right now,” said Marc Perio, a parent of one of the victims.
But neighbors say they’re shocked by the accusations.
“I’ve never seen her hurting her kids or even shouting at the kids playing here,” said her next door neighbor John Ranola.
“I’m not a person to judge, but as a neighbor and knowing her, knowing her kids, cause her kids and my kids play, I can’t accept that accusation. I don’t see that in her,” said her longtime friend, Pat Ford. “Videos can be deceiving if you don’t know what’s going on.”
Ford and others say they have chosen to stick by her side.
“I’m willing to see what I can do to help because I don’t see that in here, abusing kids.”
Polk County Public Schools says Tappin was placed on paid administrative leave.