Manatee County elementary school employee charged with abusing autistic student

Authorities have arrested an employee of the Manatee County School District after he allegedly threw a ball at the face of an autistic, nonverbal student at Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School in Bradenton.

Police said the investigation revealed that district employee Quintin Bradley has a history of “brash and inappropriate” encounters with students. He is now facing a charge of child abuse without great harm.

Bradley, 40, was trying to silence the 5-year-old student as he cried on the school playground, according to a Feb. 7 report from the Bradenton Police Department. The department issued a news release on Wednesday afternoon.

When reached for comment by email, Bradley referred questions to his attorney, Colleen Glenn. She declined to comment while the case is active.

And though she was not arrested, teacher Vicki Hampton, 58, allegedly witnessed the incident and failed to properly notify authorities. Charges against the teacher were pending as of Wednesday, according to the news release.

Her attorney contacted investigators on Feb. 20, noting that Hampton suffered from “excruciating migraines” that “altered her normal faculties” on the day in question, and that she never saw the alleged abuse. The surveillance footage suggests otherwise, according to police records.

Wednesday’s release said a different employee reported the incident to school administrators, who then contacted the Florida Abuse Hotline.

The school removed both Hampton and Bradley from campus after the allegations surfaced, according to an email from Mitchell Teitelbaum, attorney for the school district.

“The District has and will fully cooperate with law enforcement,” he wrote.

Bradley has since pleaded not guilty, and his arraignment is scheduled for March 8. He is listed in the report as a paraprofessional, otherwise known as a teacher’s aide.

Standing between 3 to 7 feet from the student, Bradley hit the boy with a rubber ball four times, knocking him into a nearby fence, the report states. Police described the object as a “bouncy style ball students can sit on which is approximately two feet across with a handle.”

A police officer and a Child Protective Services investigator reviewed the surveillance footage and confirmed the allegations, according to the report. The report also detailed an interview between Bradley and police.

“The defendant advised he picked up a ball and playfully struck the child in an attempt to get them to play,” the report states.

Bradley later told police he worked with children who have disabilities for about one and a half years, though he was not trained to support nonverbal students. He also said the playground incident was improper, according to the report.

“I confirmed with the defendant he understood autistic and special needs children have trouble expressing emotions,” the report states.

Another officer interviewed school administrators, and his report referenced Bradley’s history of “brash and inappropriate” behavior with children. Andrea Keezer, an assistant principal at the school, previously warned Bradley about his handling of students, according to the report.

“Ms. Keezer provided the example of Mr. Bradley grabbing a child under the arms as though you would a baby and rising the child up in the air several times,” the report states.

The officer went on to describe other allegations against Bradley, which surfaced as part of the recent CPS investigation. Bradley is accused of flicking a child in the head “for no apparent reason,” forcing him to cry.

“Mr. Bradley would mock another child who has a stutter by mimicking the child’s stutter in a mocking fashion,” the report continues.

Giuseppe Sabella, education reporter for the Bradenton Herald, holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He spent time at the Independent Florida Alligator, the Gainesville Sun and the Florida Times-Union. His coverage of education in Manatee County earned him a first place prize in the Florida Society of News Editors’ 2019 Journalism Contest. Giuseppe also spent one year in Charleston, W.Va., earning a first-place award for investigative reporting.