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'Do you want me to hit you?' Dunedin preschool teacher accused of child abuse is fired

Ashley Richards had been employed at the Dunedin KinderCare location since March 2021.

DUNEDIN, Fla. — A preschool teacher was arrested Wednesday after she was seen "repeatedly" punching a 4-year-old child on the playground, authorities said.

Ashley Richards, 32, was charged with felony child abuse after the attack at a KinderCare Learning Center, located at 1990 Main St. in Dunedin, according to a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office news release.

Deputies say a witness overheard screaming coming from the center's playground and, after they went over, they saw Richards yelling at the child. She, too, was seen punching the child with an open and closed fist to the back and side of the head, the sheriff's office said.

"Do you want me to hit you?" Richards reportedly yelled at the child after pushing them to the ground.

According to the sheriff's office, Richards has been employed at the location since March 2021 and has been placed on leave.

KinderCare in an update Friday said Richards was fired; they provided the following statement in the wake of her arrest, indicating she had been placed on leave:

"Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the children in our care. 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."

Online jail records show Richards was released from the Pinellas County jail late Wednesday after posting bond.

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