By Jeff Todd
PARKER, Colo. (CBS4)– Parents in Parker say a teacher at day care caused chemical burns to their children, and a slow, inadequate investigation into abuse has forced them to file a lawsuit.
“The two teachers came up to me and said, ‘Your son and another boy got in a marker fight.’ And immediately my son said, ‘Mommy my throat hurts.’ The teacher said ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I must have been scrubbing you too hard when I cleaned you,” Caitlin Sims said recalling the incident from May 22.
“The actual element used was a Magic Eraser which those have numerous chemicals in it,” said Stacey Dant. “Similar to fine grit sand paper and she’s using it on children’s faces. I mean, anyone knows better than that.”
The Sims’ son had a scab on his neck. The Dants’ son came home with red irritation around his eyes. A pediatrician later said their son had chemical burns.
Both boys were 3 years old at the time of the incident.
“You can still see them under his eyes right now, there’s like pink marks. But the actual bruising and scabs was almost two weeks,” Joel Dant said about his child’s injuries.
It took days for the Merryhill School in Parker to contact the parents and allow them to view surveillance video. The parents say they were told different stories and the school wouldn’t provide contact information so they could get in touch with each other.
“Frankly we thought the school would advocate a little more for us and to partner with us,” said Josh Sims. “The school refused to give us the video of our child being abused so we could take it to the authorities and begin that process.”
The two sets of parents have sued Merryhill School, its parent company, Nobel Learning Communities Inc., and the teacher responsible.
Beyond the scabs and bruises, the parents say surveillance video shows a brutal handling of the kids.
“Grabbed him by his neck, pushing her thumb into his neck, ripped him over backwards pulling him to the point his knees buckled. It was the toughest thing my wife and I have ever seen,” Josh said.
The Sims say Child Protective Services has told them it could be a few more weeks before an official investigation is wrapped up. Parker police weren’t notified about the incident until Friday.
Neither state nor county officials could comment to CBS4 about the investigation, why it’s taken so long, or why law enforcement wasn’t involved.
“If I would have done that to another person I’d be in jail for assault,” Joel said.
“How many other incidents have happened? None of the other parents that go to that school, other than the ones we were able to speak with, understand what happened, and that concerns me,” Josh said. “Parents need to know the truth, this is what happened to our child and this is how it was not properly handled.”
The principal of the school declined to comment to CBS4 about the incident.
A spokeswoman for Noble Learning Communities said in a statement, “The safety and well-being of children in our care is our top priority, so we were surprised and deeply concerned to learn about the alleged behavior of one of our teachers. As soon as we were made aware of this incident, we reported it to state licensing officials, placed the teacher on leave, and began an internal investigation which resulted in the teacher being terminated from our employment. We take employee misconduct very seriously and have zero tolerance for anyone who does not have children’s best interests at heart. We are cooperating with state licensing authorities as they complete their investigation, and look forward to continuing to provide an excellent, nurturing education for the children entrusted in our care.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.