The state agency that licenses child care centers has cited a Pleasanton church preschool after it was discovered that an employee taped a 2-year-old girl's hands and ankles for refusing to take a nap.
The church said it learned of the incident March 4, after the employee, who had already left her job at Centerpointe Christian Preschool, showed a photo she had taken of the bound child sitting on a cot to her former colleagues at a social gathering.
The girl, a child of a teacher at the school at the time, wasn't physically harmed, according to church officials, but Pleasanton Police are investigating the incident. (Related story: Church responds to state violation.)
Michael Weston, the spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services, says the incident was substantiated by the initial investigation. The complaint was filed by the preschool with the Community Care Licensing Department on March 5.
"We received a complaint about this incident, and the department did confirm a personal rights violation did occur," Weston told Pleasanton Patch Monday in a phone interview.
The complaint reads:
It was nap time and according to the complainant, the child would not take her nap. A staff member who is no longer employed at the center told the child that if she did not take a nap, that the staff member was going to tie her up. The child continued to refuse the nap and the staff member tied up the child's ankles and wrists with masking tape. A photograph was taken by the staff member who tied the child up. This photograph was then shared with current and former staff members of the facility. It was confirmed that the photograph showed a picture of the girl with her ankles and wrists tied up with masking tape while sitting on her cot at the facility. The allegation is substantiated.
According to the Department of Social Services report, Personal Rights, Section 101223 (a)(3) as defined by the California Department of Social Services applicable to Child Care Centers reads:
"Each child shall be free from corporal or unusual punishment, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threat, mental abuse or other actions of a punitive nature."
Pleasanton Police Sergeant Kurt Schlehuber also confirmed the department is conducting a criminal investigation in this case, which was reported to the police on March 4. The formal complaint with the Department of Social Services says the exact date of the incident is unknown.
The church said once it learned of the incident, it reported it to the Department of Social Services.
The Department of Social Services is the administrative authority over licensing child care facilities and provides background checks for individuals working at those facilities. Weston says that although they do not take criminal action in these kind of cases, they can take action to include issuing a citation and finding the facility in non-compliance all the way to revocation of the facility's licenses.
Depending on the outcome of their investigation, Weston says Social Services are also able to take "exclusion action" against an individual, which could possibly ban that person from ever working with children.
The church says it will shut down the school for about five days starting Friday for training and to review procedures.
“We are appalled and shocked that such an incident, if proven to be true, took place. Every human person made in the image of God, all of the children in our care, deserve the highest degree of respect and protection from any action that dehumanizes them,” said Pastor Mike Barris in a statement released to the media Monday afternoon.
We want to be very clear that no currently employed staff were involved in this incident. The former preschool director had no knowledge of this event until we informed him after we were notified.
The church on Sunday told its congregation: “… we will not continue to operate a preschool that is less than God’s best for the children we serve. While the staff involved in these situations is no longer employed here, there is more work to be done to create a new educational environment that is safe, loving, and enriching for your children."
One recent Yelp review on March 5 by "Jenny S" alleges numerous recent violations against the school.
"I highly suggest you contact community care licensing (510) 622-2602) and ask about all of the type a and b violations at this school. For that matter, before going to any school or in home daycare, contact them and ask about all of the violations. There are some serious ones at this school!!!! They have their preschool program and school age program, so ask for violations under both licenses. Even though they are licensed separately, they are run jointly. There were about 8 violations since they hired this new director, some occurring as a direct result of his decisions. For example, the parents were given a letter explaining that the kids were left in the care of a minor with no adult supervision in the school age program. (The church explains this violation, which took place Jan. 24 in its media release.) When parents complained and starting talking about the safety concerns that were occurring repeatedly, the administration that consists of the church pastor and a group of people in the church called 'elders' got very upset that they were being questioned. They sent out a 6 page letter quoting scripture and said that parents had caused harm and would be subject to termination of their contract. Needless to say, my kids are no longer there. I WILL NEVER STOP asking questions when it comes to the care of my children and NO PARENT SHOULD BE AFRAID TO QUESTION THE CARE THEIR CHILDREN RECEIVE. This fear tactic by the church and administration fell on deaf ears and now the teachers are leaving and families are pulling their children left and right. I just wonder what more they are trying to hide..."