LUTZ, Fla. (WFLA) — The owner of the Lutz daycare center talked with News Channel 8 Wednesday after one of his teachers was charged with child abuse. Deputies say the teacher, who has been fired, threw water in the face of a 3-year-old autistic boy who can’t speak.
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputies on Tuesday arrested Tiffany Littlepage, age 34, who worked at the Children’s Nest Day School at 24170 State Road 54 in Lutz. Littlepage, of Holiday, made her first appearance in court Wednesday. The incident occurred late last month.
Investigators say Littlepage intentionally dumped water on the head of the boy because the boy was playing with Littlepage’s water bottle. Littlepage also threw water in the boy’s face in an upward motion, according to the sheriff’s office. The boy began to cry after the water was thrown in his face, according to an arrest affidavit.
Another teacher at the daycare witnessed the incident. A classroom aide told deputies that Littlepage targeted children who are slow learners and who have disabilities by putting the children in time-out and punishing them unjustly.
Littlepage had worked at the facility since August. “Sickened would be the right word,” school owner Tripp Crouch told News Channel 8. Crouch said he’s disgusted and that this doesn’t represent the seven Tampa Bay area daycare centers his family owns.
Littlepage passed all local and state background checks, Crouch said. He said she was a well-qualified teacher and that nothing in her background would’ve indicated this. Crouch added that Littlepage admitted to the abuse.
News Channel 8 talked with parents who have children at the school. “Some people were meant to be teachers and some just can’t handle the job,” said Tonya Estep who has one child at the Children’s Nest Day School. “I think as a parent you always get that like gut feeling like, oh my goodness, this can happen to my own.”
We went to Littlepage’s house in Holiday to get her side of the story but no one answered the door. A woman who lives down the street from the former teacher said she knew about the investigation. That neighbor said her friends have pulled their children from the center.
“As a mother, I have my own child, my own children, and I wouldn’t want to have my children in that situation either,” Michelle Hamilton said.
Still, some parents say, despite this incident, they’re leaving their kids in good hands. “Both my children have been coming here for five years and it’s been good,” Tracy Philippi said.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said the investigation is ongoing but investigators believe it is an isolated incident.