KSLA INVESTIGATES: Trouble at the Daycare
BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) - Many working parents rely on daycare to keep their children safe. But what do you do when things go wrong? KSLA News 12′s Biskie Duncan spoke with multiple parents who came forward with complaints of neglect, abuse, and improper training at a south Bossier daycare.
“They never called the police. Step one, you always call the police if you have a child that’s missing. They never did,” said a mother and father who have complaints about Fellowship Learning Center (FLC). The parents who spoke with KSLA did not wish to be identified. For the purposes of this article, we will call the couple Jane and Michael, and the other mother, we will call Jessica.
“I believed her. I believed that my baby was okay. I believed what she told me. If I wouldn’t have asked to see that video, I would have continued to believe what they told me and the girl would still be working there and my baby would still be there,” said Jessica, who has accusations of abuse.
“It was Friday, March 13,” said Michael, speaking of the day his child reportedly became separated from their class at the daycare.
“I get a call at almost 11 from the director, stating, ‘We found your son. He’s okay. He was only gone for a few minutes. We found him, everything is fine.’ I immediately hung up and called and said, ‘You need to go to Fellowship now and get… something’s happened,” Jane said.
In 2020, three children under the age of 3 became separated from their class at Fellowship Learning Center. One of those children ended up locked in the closet of a sanctuary for 45 minutes. The other two made it all the way to Jimmie Davis Highway and into heavy traffic.
“Really don’t know what happened. Don’t know how long exactly they were outside alone. Forty-five minutes, an hour? It was just scary,” Michael said.
According to the police report, a woman driving by the intersection of Medical Drive and Jimmie Davis Highway saw two small children roughly 2 to 3-years-old almost struck by numerous vehicles. She noticed two other women, who turned out to be the director, Dana Morris, and an employee of FLC. Once the children was safely secured; the Bossier City Police Department was contacted, and so were the parents.
“What she told us was they lined up for their PE class and were missing two. When we got into it, we found out that was not the case. Three children were left behind,” said Michael.
The parents say with the incident coinciding with the start of the pandemic, they were told a proper investigation couldn’t be done due to COVID-19. They also went on to say that while the teacher was dismissed, no action or counseling was ever taken with Morris, and that other than the initial call about their child being located, nobody from the church or board of directors reached out to apologize or attempt to correct the situation.
“It was trying to be swept under the rug to where nothing would happen,” Jane said.
Another parent involved in this same incident also spoke with KSLA, and she’s a familiar face to many ArkLaTex residents.
“They didn’t act like it was a big deal when they first called me. I had to kind of dig a little deeper to realize that missing and I had no idea she was gone for almost two hours. And when I went to pick her up, she was covered and her clothes were covered in mud. They were soaking wet because she had been in a ditch trying to get up to help at the road. She was bruised, with cuts and scrapes all over her body. The crazy thing is the only reason why the center even knew that they were gone was because one of the children came back to the facility and sat in that dark room and cried. They still had no idea there were two other children and we’re running around outside trying to find help, trying to find someone. So a person in a vehicle, that thank goodness was a good, kind human being, found my daughter and the other child and called the police. But the problem I have is that first of all, they left the door open and they didn’t have a secure facility. Secondly, that the employees that work there did not do a headcount to make sure that all children were accounted for. And the fact that they had no idea that my child was even missing for hours is a huge problem to me,” said Adria Goins, former KSLA anchor.
KSLA’s Biskie Duncan went onto the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) website and began looking at the inspection visits from 2020 on, and viewed the statements of deficiencies. There were some typical minor infractions that were easily corrected, but several major instances stood out. They include:
- Hiring a 15-year-old, when staff must be at least 18, or 17 if under the direct supervision of an adult staff member
- Using prohibited physical punishment to discipline a child
- Failing to notify child welfare within 24 hours after a critical incident of a child putting their fingers in a door hinge when staff left the room
- Failing to devote attention to needs and supervision of the children, resulting in abuse of a child from other classmates
- And possibly the most disturbing of these, prohibited physical punishment so rough that the child was left with substantial bruising and a skull fracture
“It wasn’t until I saw the video that I actually knew what happened. The teacher walks over very aggressively with another child on her hip. Yanks arm. I don’t know the proper wording, but not set down,” said Jessica.
This parent echoes the same sentiments as other parents, saying other than the initial notifying call, their child’s incident was downplayed until they pushed for answers and demanded an explanation.
“This was her written statement the next day. It says that his regular teacher brought him to the office saying that his nose was bleeding. At 10:15, I seen where the teacher walked over to him, picked him up by one arm, and aggressively placed him to the side, resulting with him hitting his face on the floor and causing him to bust his nose,” said Jessica.
The teacher’s aide referenced was terminated and later arrested. KSLA reached out to Bossier police and the sheriff’s office to obtain a copy of the arrest report and was told it’s an ongoing criminal matter that’s still under investigation and that they could not release a copy to the public.
KSLA then followed up with LDOE to try to understand the process of what happens at daycares post incident reports like this. Executive Director of Public Affairs Ted Beasley answered some questions:
- Q: If a child is injured at a daycare due to negligence or improper care, what is the course of action?
- A: Licensing will reach out to the center to determine what took place, request related documentation, learn what actions, if any, have been put in place since the incident. Licensing then reviews the history of the center to determine if any steps could or should be taken. Should the license be revoked, the provider receives a notice for the reason of revocation and is given a timeframe and necessary steps to appeal. The provider is allowed to operate during this process unless determined otherwise.
After hearing these stories from multiple parents and seeing the deficiency reports and inspections from LDOE, KSLA’s Biskie Duncan reached out to the director of the board of Fellowship United Methodist Church, who oversees the daycare to see if they were available to answer questions and clarify the situations. They declined to comment and hung up the phone.
Throughout each of these traumatic stories, every parent involved echoed the same two statements:
“When management changed, things felt different,” Goins said.
“The daycare had a different feel. Our kids said it wasn’t happy anymore,” said Jane and Michael.
“Things just changed,” said Jessica.
“Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right or your kids say it’s different, listen to that,” Jane and Michael said.
“Do your research. Good daycares cost more, but for a reason,” Goins said.
“Always ask to see the videos. Anytime there’s an incident report, ask to see the video,” Jessica said.
Those parents said it best. Always do your research, look for reviews from multiple sources, and check with state agencies like LDOE in order to view inspections, deficiency reports, and incident records of potential daycares for your children.
All parents interviewed withdrew their children from FLC following their individual incidents.
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