Bus attendant's friend shocked by student abuse allegation

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A Polk County school bus attendant may soon to be out of a job.

Brenda Nelson is accused of hitting and even shaking a special needs child on a school bus.

A citizen not on the bus reported the behavior she saw to the district and when officials checked the cameras on the bus, they say their worst fears were confirmed.

“I just can’t hardly believe that she would do something like that,” a friend of the suspect, Brenda Keller told FOX 13 News.

Keller says she's an old friend of the woman now accused of child abuse against a special needs student.

“If you’re 65 and things get to you like that you shouldn’t be working with children,” Keller said.

District officials confirm they are in the process of firing Brenda Nelson, who has worked for the county as a bus attendant since 1983.

In an arrest affidavit we learned the investigation started after someone reported seeing Nelson hit a student on the bus coming from Doris Sanders Learning Center in Lakeland.

After looking at onboard bus surveillance video, officials explained Nelson not only hit the restrained student in the head with her open palm, but also grabbed the girl by her hair and violently shook her back and forth.

Officials detailed Nelson telling the student "I’m gonna slap that tongue out of your mouth" while the victim can be heard squealing and appears to be in pain.

“It breaks my heart for the child and her,” Keller said, adding the claims come as a surprise because Nelson has a child with a disability. “Especially knowing that she has a handicapped child herself. What did she do to push your buttons that far?”

District officials interviewed Nelson about the alleged abuse. She told them the girl was beating on a window and trying to move around the bus.

Nelson’s claims are not supported by the video, officials say.

After watching the video Nelson said, "I must have just lost it. I don't remember doing that. I would never hurt one of those kids"

In a statement, District Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd expressed some anger saying, "This employee squandered the trust of the children and families in her care. She does not embody the values of Polk County Public Schools, and I will not tolerate it.”

Because of the holiday, the video wasn't available to FOX 13 News on Friday. Nelson is now at the county jail and has a first appearance Saturday. School officials say she had no prior disciplinary issues on her record.