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Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018
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Polk childcare workers who berated autistic child turn themselves in (w/video)

WINTER HAVEN — Two childcare workers are facing child abuse charges after a Snapchat video surfaced of them berating, taunting and throwing a backpack at an 8-year-old autistic child.

On Sept. 1, Winter Haven police were alerted to the video showing 26-year-old Kaderrica Smith, of Haines City, and 20-year-old Alexis Henderson, of Dundee, taunting, aggravating, yelling at and tripping a student at Our Children's Academy, 330 Ave. C SE.

The 8-year-old boy is diagnosed with autism, ADHD and other behavioral disorders, police said. In the video, he is seen and heard crying and hiding underneath a table while Henderson and Smith continue to taunt him.

At one point in the video, the child comes out from under the table and attempts to run toward one of the workers when she grabs his arms and does a "leg sweep," causing him to fall on his back.

At another point, one of the workers is shown throwing a backpack at the child, hitting him in the face.

An initial interview conducted with Henderson and Smith revealed they felt they were acting appropriately and did nothing wrong.

The facility immediately fired the two, and the Department of Children and Families placed a hold on their certifications so they could not be re-employed by any organization working with children while the investigation is underway.

After the child was interviewed, it was determined that both workers committed criminal acts in dealing with the boy.

"These workers were supposed to be trained in how to handle children with behavioral issues," said Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird. "They are trained to de-escalate situations, but that obviously did not happen."

Multiple attempts to locate Henderson and Smith were initially unsuccessful, police said, until both turned themselves into Polk County Jail and were booked Friday morning.

Henderson, who faces a charge of child neglect was bonded out.

Smith is being held without bail as she faces charges of battery and child abuse.

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