WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – A school bus attendant is charged with one count of Felony Child Abuse W/O Bodily Harm after using a belt to hit an 11-year-old child.
According to police, on Nov. 17, 2022, the child’s grandmother filed a report of the incident after learning of this incident along with two others involving the attendant, a 33-year-old Loni Covington of Bartow.
According to police, the grandmother reported that she has custody of her three grandchildren who all ride the same bus to school. When the children returned home on Nov. 14, 2022, the 11-year-old child reported that the bus attendant “Loni” flicked him on the ear and neck while on the bus.
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Then on Nov. 15, 2022, after getting off the school bus, the grandchildren reported that Miss Loni had beaten the boy with a belt on his side.
“The grandmother observed belt marks on his side and back. The grandmother took pictures of the injuries to provide to Polk County School Transportation,” said Winter Haven Police Department.
The following day, Nov. 16, 2023, when the kids got off the bus, one of the other grandchildren told the grandmother that Miss Loni had grabbed her by the wrists and “snatched a picture” out of her hand.
After speaking with the third grandchild, the child confirmed what she had been told by the other two and had witnessed the occurrences.
Additionally, the child stated that Miss Loni would make all three children sit on the same seat that is designed to only hold two children. The child continued that when the bus would make a turn or stop, whoever was on the end of the seat would always fall off the edge.
Once the incidents were reported to Winter Haven Police officers, an investigation was started, and it was learned that on Nov. 15, the day the reported belt incident occurred, the 11-year-old was seen standing up while the bus was in motion.
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Miss Loni saw the child standing and told another student to take off her belt. Loni then took the belt, folded it, and hit him nine (9) times while sitting on top of him.
On Feb. 28, 2023, Loni Covington was interviewed by detectives; she said she saw the 11-year-old standing up and told him to sit down.
She indicated the child talked back to her, and she told the other student to give her the belt and hit the floor and the back of the seat. She later advised that she didn’t recall that the belt struck the child. Detectives learned through video evidence that the belt did in fact make contact with the child nine times.
Covington was taken into custody and charged with Felony Child Abuse W/O Bodily Harm.
“This is unacceptable behavior for anyone who works with children. We appreciate the Winter Haven Police Department for conducting a thorough investigation and helping us protect our students,” said the Polk County School Board.
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