DANIA BEACH, Fla. – A classroom assistant at Collins Elementary School in Dania Beach could possibly face child abuse charges after she was accused of "aggressively handling special needs pre-kindergarten students," an incident report said.
A mother of one of the victims told Local 10 News that her 5-year-old non-verbal autistic son, Damien, was hit by the employee on Nov. 7.
"I was speechless, gut wrenched. I had to mute my phone because I felt like I was going to vomit," Ahilyn Zamora said.
"The teacher was holding his mouth shut and when that didn't work, she proceeded to use his own hand to smack him in the face," Damien's father, Dexter Smith, said.
Zamora said another employee witnessed the abuse and reported it to the principal on Nov. 9.
She said the assistant was removed from the classroom the next day, but said that the school didn't tell her about the incident until Tuesday.
"That is pretty disturbing knowing that he had to go back to that class and see that woman again. That had to be tough on him," Smith said.
The Broward County Public School District maintains that it took "swift action" against the employee.
"The district takes any allegation involving student safety seriously. Upon becoming aware of allegations regarding a classroom assistant, school administration took swift action and immediately removed the employee from the classroom," Broward County Public Schools spokeswoman Tracy Clark said in a statement.
The Broward Sheriff's Office Child Protection Investigations Section confirmed that it is investigating the incident and said that there are four reported victims, ages 4 and 5.
Authorities said the students were photographed by a CPIS investigator and no injuries were observed on the children.
All parents of the children in the classroom have been notified.
"School administration contacted all appropriate agencies, including the district's Special Investigation Unit," Clark said. "In addition to being removed from the classroom, the employee was removed from the school and has been reassigned. An investigation regarding these allegations is currently underway. The school continues to work with all agencies involved. The safety of our students is our district's highest priority."
Clark did not specify what job the employee has been reassigned to.