Is your kid in a day care “fight club”?

Bizarre, Family/Kids, NakedLaw, Relationships

When you send your kids to day care, you do so assuming they will be cared for and protected. What you don’t expect is that they will participate in a little league “fight club” for the amusement of their teachers.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened at Lightbridge Academy in New Jersey this August. Two employees at the day care involved at least 12 children (between ages four and six) in playground battles, encouraging the kids to hit, push, and slap each other as the adults in charge sat back and watched. In a brilliant move, one of the two women involved not only filmed the fights on her phone, but uploaded them to SnapChat.

Criminal Implications

The day care workers who participated in the incident, as you might expect, are in serious trouble. They have been charged with fourth-degree child abuse (punishable by up to 18 months in jail), and one of the women has been charged with third-degree endangering the welfare of a child (carrying a possible punishment of three to five years in jail).

Both women were not only fired, but it’s likely they’ll be banned from working with children in the future. At this point no criminal charges have been filed against the day care center itself, but social service agencies will probably get involved.

The good news is none of the children were seriously injured; most suffered from pushes and shoves in the incident. However, the parents may demand more than just criminal convictions in this case. As their lawyers will advise them, the parents most likely have grounds to sue not only the day care workers themselves for endangering the children and for the physical harm inflicted, but also the day care business and its owners. Damages can be claimed from any emotional distress suffered by the children and parents, as well as for negligence in caring for the children and in monitoring the employees.

How to Keep Your Kids Safe

Just a crazy, isolated incident, you say? Unfortunately not; several similar occurrences have happened in the past few years. In 2012, toddlers were encouraged to fight at a Delaware day care. Three workers at that center were charged with assault, reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, and conspiracy. Similar cases also occurred in Texas and Ohio in recent years.

Hearing stories like these can make parents feel sick and wonder how to protect their own children from this kind of abuse. The bad news is that day care workers are not highly paid, so the position tends to get filled by people who may have little or poor training (and little common sense, it seems). Parents are right to wonder about the kind of care their kids are actually getting.

There are several ways to protect your child:

  • Ask the day care center about the qualifications workers are required to have and which background checks that workers go through before they are hired.
  • Make sure the center has a policy allowing parents to drop in unannounced at any point. Before you sign up, drop in a few times to get a feel for the place.
  • Look for a day care center with closed circuit cameras that are always on and available online.
  • Try to talk to other parents whose children attend, and read the online reviews.

Day care centers are supposed to provide reliable care, supervision, and education. This case is an unfortunate reminder that you can’t (and shouldn’t) assume your children will be safe in day care. Take the necessary steps to thoroughly review any day care facilities before entrusting them with your child’s well-being.

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