A Florida bus driver who reportedly has a history of taunting children was arrested Tuesday for allegedly smacking a 9-year-old special-needs student in the face, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
Pamela Hardy, 56, was "charged with child cruelty without great bodily harm" in the incident, which occurred April 29 and was recorded by cameras installed in the school bus.
According to a Pensacola Police Department arrest report viewed by the News Journal, the child was on the bus earlier than normal, and as the bus waited for other children to arrive, the boy repeatedly asked Hardy for permission to use the restroom.
In the video footage of the incident viewed by the police department, Hardy was seen mocking the boy, who "has a learning disability, is deaf in one ear and utilizes a hearing aid in the other," the News Journal reports.
According to the police report, Hardy can be heard saying, "If he shut his mouth, it would relieve the pressure," and that he should "quit whining like a child." She reportedly told the boy that "he would not be allowed to get back on the bus if he got off," the News Journal reports.
Hardy reportedly got close to the child after he began play fighting with another student. According to the report, the 9-year-old "made a gesture at [Hardy], as if he wanted her out of his face," and "Hardy takes the back of her right hand and slaps him across the face."
The News Journal reports that it's unclear on the video if the child made contact with his gesture, but it was reported that he was removed from the bus after the incident.
Malcolm Thomas, the Escambia County, Fla., superintendent of schools, told the News Journal that "the incident is currently under investigation by the school district and law-enforcement agencies.
"Until all of the facts are presented and we've reviewed them all, I will refrain from making any judgments," Thomas added.
When asked whether Hardy had been disciplined, suspended or docked pay while the incident was being investigated, Thomas noted, "All of our bus drivers are out for the summer, and they are not being paid."
According to the News Journal, Escambia County School District Director of Transportation Rob Doss reviewed footage from the April 29 incident as well as past footage and found "several other recorded incidents."
Doss reportedly found that Hardy would "entice and taunt" the boy and "engage him and cause a confrontation," the News Journal reports.
Just a day before the altercation with the child, cameras reportedly caught Hardy demanding that a student apologize for stepping on her foot, even though, according to the police report, the child clearly didn't make contact with the driver's foot.
That same day, Hardy reportedly drove the school bus to the Escambia County Jail parking lot, leaving her normal assigned route, because the student was making noise and "disturbing her."
Another recording, from April 11, reportedly shows Hardy giving candy to one child, and when another asked for some, she reportedly said, "Keep your nose out of people's business."
Timisha Cotton, the mother of the student in the alleged slapping incident, told the Daily Journal that after the school district showed her the video of her son being slapped, she immediately filed charges against Hardy.
Read more at the Pensacola News Journal.