Back to School Case of Child Abuse

August 18, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

It’s that time of year again—back to school. While some students are well into their scholastic endeavors, young kids are just starting preschool and daycare. This can be a stressful time for both parents and kids. The most important priority is ensuring that these young girls and boys are comfortable and safe when they finally start school.

Unfortunately, there are some cases where the teachers who are charged with the safety of young children break that trust and even cause harm. One recent case in Florida highlights the worst-case scenario, in which a teacher laid their hands on a young student. We will cover the details of the case, along with charges for child abuse.

What was the Incident?

Ashley Richards, 32, was arrested by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday morning. Richards, formerly a preschool teacher at Dunedin KinderCare, is now facing charges for felony child abuse after being violent with one of the 4-year-old students.

The authorities were called to the scene after a witness reported seeing Richards repeatedly punch the young child in the head while in the playground area. The witness told police that she heard Richards shouting at the child and punched him with, “both an open hand and a closed fist in the back of the head and side of the head,” according to the affidavit.

Richards also allegedly pushed the 4-year-old down to the ground, which is when the witness began filming the incident on her cellphone. The authorities watched the video, in which Richards is shown pulling the young boy into her lap and continuously punching him.

In the video, Richards is overheard asking the boy, “Do you want me to hit you?” The police interviewed the 4-year-old boy about what happened. He said he had gotten into trouble for arguing with his brother and that he was being hit as a punishment.

When the police questioned Richards about the events, she admitted to putting the hand over the 4-year-old’s mouth after he started to laugh at her for an unspecified reason. She denied ever punching or hitting the preschooler. She claimed she was trying to console the child after he got upset, but she did not indicate why he was upset.

Colleen Moran, the public relations manager for KinderCare Learning Companies released a statement to the Tampa Bay Times about the incident: “The teacher’s alleged actions do not reflect who we are or the training we provide our teachers. We are working with the police to determine what may or may not have happened. In the meantime, the teacher involved is on administrative leave until further notice.”

Child Abuse in Florida

Florida Statute section 827.03 defines child abuse as mental or physical harm done to a child under the age of 18. For a prosecution to determine that child abuse has taken place, they must prove that an individual has intentionally committed an act that caused mental or physical harm to a child under the age of 18.

The charge can be escalated to aggravated child abuse when an individual has intentionally hit or touched a child against their will which caused them bodily harm. It is also considered aggravated child abuse if the accused person intentionally or knowingly caused the child to suffer from great bodily harm or permanent disability or used a deadly weapon to commit battery onto the child.

Child abuse that does not cause lasting injuries is considered a third-degree felony. A conviction can result in a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. In the more extreme cases, where a child has had serious harm done to them through torture, imprisonment, or disfigurement the offense is classified as a first-degree felony. A conviction can result in a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

To read more about child abuse, child neglect, and what happens when a child is taken from their home after child abuse has occurs, read our page here.


The following is a list of resources for child abuse victims in Florida:

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Child abuse charges are extremely severe. Florida does not take any type of abuse or battery against children lightly. A criminal conviction can lead to expensive fines, jail time, losing your job, and potentially losing the custody of your children. If you or a loved one have been accused of a child abuse crime, your first step should be reaching out to a skilled Tallahassee defense attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients across the state of Florida for various crimes. We will stick by your side throughout the entire legal process and work to earn your freedom. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message for a free consultation today.

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