The witness allegedly saw Ashley Richards, a preschool teacher, yelling at a child and repeatedly punching the student on the back and side of the head with an open and closed fist. Richards reportedly yelled, "Do you want me to hit you?" as the child was pushed to the ground.
According to the Sheriff's Office, the witness recorded the incident on a cell phone.
Deputies interviewed the child, and he said he "got in trouble" for fighting with his brother, so Richards punished him, WFLA-TV reports.
Richards allegedly told authorities she did not punch him and that she put her hand over the child's mouth because he was laughing at her. According to WFLA, Richards also told authorities she was consoling the child.
Richards, who has worked for Kindercare as a preschool teacher since March 2021, was placed on administrative leave and charged with felony child abuse, the Sheriff's Office said.
Richards was booked into Pinellas County Jail on Aug. 10 and later released the same day on $5,000 bond, records show.