WESLEY CHAPEL — A former employee at Discovery Point day care was charged Tuesday with child neglect after witnesses said she mishandled a toddler at the facility.
Barbara Bridges, 54, worked at the day care at 5415 Post Oak Blvd., near the entrance to Lexington Oaks. Witnesses told deputies that Bridges dragged a 2-year-old boy by his arm and "flung" him against a wall on several occasions, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office report.
Witnesses also said Bridges lifted the child by his arm and dropped him about 2 to 3 feet into a crib, carried him "like a sack of potatoes" to the front desk area and dropped him on his back and head from waist height, authorities said.
"I may have set him down too hard because I was frustrated," Bridges told investigators about the incident, according to her arrest report.
Bridges was booked at the Land O'Lakes jail and released on $5,000 bail. She declined Wednesday to speak to the Times.
The incidents happened around noon March 30, but weren't reported to deputies until May 6, authorities said. Detectives investigated and found probable cause for the arrest.
"The child did not have any injuries," said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll. "That's why it's not child abuse. But the actions of the defendant did meet the criteria for child neglect."
Discovery Point Child Development has 59 centers in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, since opening in 1988, that cater to children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old, according to the Discovery Point website.
The center declined to speak to the Times Wednesday.
Jim Farrelly, executive director of the Pasco-Hernando Early Learning Coalition, said the Department of Children and Families reported that Bridges was no longer a Discovery Point employee at the time of her arrest.
Several parents who came to pick up their kids from the day care Wednesday afternoon told the Times they hadn't heard of the incident. But all said they'd had good experiences with the facility.
DCF inspectors have routinely found the facility in compliance with state regulations, with the exception of a few paperwork matters that were quickly resolved.
The facility also has received high praise from the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties for its Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program.
"Discovery Point 62 has offered PVK for two years with us and has an excellent reputation," Farrelly said. "Our relationship with that Discovery Point will be unchanged."