The video, which was posted on Snapchat in September, shows a worker throwing shoes and a backpack at the child, who also has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), described by the National Institutes of Health as “characterized by a persistent pattern of defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior towards authority figures.” The date of the incident itself was not certain.
“Fall on your face,” one of the women can be heard saying. The child care workers also talk about the “boogeyman” coming. The child reacts to the taunting “in both a verbal and physical manner,” police say.
One of the workers calls the boy a “chicken” and she can be heard making chicken sounds, ultimately provoking the child to run at the woman. At the 1:52 minute mark, she trips him in what police call a “leg sweep,” causing him to fall on his back. The child did not need medical attention, police said.
The police were notified Sept. 1 that the Snapchat video was posted. In an initial police interview, both Henderson and Smith revealed they “felt they were acting appropriately and they did nothing wrong,” police said.
The state’s Department of Children and Families placed a hold on their professional certificates so they could not work for another facility with children during the investigation, police said. A DCF official also interviewed the child.
Police said Smith is being charged with battery and child abuse and Henderson is being charged with child neglect. Police have been unable to find them, authorities said.
“These workers were supposed to be trained in how to handle children with behavioral issues,” Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird said in a news release. “They are trained to deescalate situations, but that obviously did not happen.”
The facility’s website says: “Our students span a range of exceptionalities, including mental, physical, and emotional disabilities. … Our Children’s also provides extra resources for students who have limited verbal abilities, and for students with severe medical challenges.”
Its purpose is to help students have a “sense of belonging” and “reach their personal aspirations” in a “therapeutic and academic environment to become a productive member of society.”