WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) — A Polk County school bus attendant was arrested after allegedly hitting an 11-year-old student with a belt last year.
Loni Covington, 33, was accused of striking the boy on Nov. 15, 2022, after his grandmother reported the incident, according to a release from the Winter Haven Police Department.
The grandmother told police that her three grandchildren ride the same bus and described multiple instances of alleged physical contact with the attendant. One child said “Miss Loni” grabbed her by the wrists and snatched something out of her hand. The 11-year-old said the attendant “flicked him on the ear and neck,” in a separate incident, according to the release.
The three children also reported being made to share a seat that was only designed to hold two people.
Detectives said the Nov. 15 incident began because the boy was standing up while the bus was moving. Covington told police he “talked back to her” when she asked him to sit down. She then told another student to take off their belt and hand it to her, according to the release.
Winter Haven police said Covington sat on top of the 11-year-old and hit him nine times. Covington claimed the belt hit the floor and the back of the seat, but could not recall if it made contact with the child. Police said video from the bus confirmed the belt struck the boy nine times.
“This is unacceptable behavior for anyone who works with children,” The Polk County School Board wrote in a statement. “We appreciate the Winter Haven Police Department for conducting a thorough investigation and helping us protect our students.”
Covington was arrested and charged with felony child abuse without bodily harm.