Moms have lots
of tricks to get toddlers to eat. They slice cheese into fun little shapes,
using carrot sticks as arms and broccoli for hair, but sometimes
the lunch they pack for their preschooler comes home uneaten.
But what if the child's preschool teacher uses force to make sure she eats everything? According to one Florida
family, that's exactly what happened to their daughter and the whole thing was caught
Brinley Cleary’s mom, Jamie, picked her up from The Kings Academy Preschool in
July, according to WPBF News, the teacher said she had scratched her face on the playground. But later
that afternoon, Jamie noticed fingerprint-shaped bruises on
both sides of her cheeks. When Brinley's father, Chris, came home from work that
day, the couple agreed to send an email to the school’s director addressing
their concerns and asking for a better explanation.
director allegedly told the parents that she had examined footage from the
classroom video and determined that the incident occurred when the teacher
“saved” Brinley from choking.
She went on to
explain that the video supported what the teacher had said—that Brinley was
choking, the teacher tried to clear her mouth, but Brinley clamped down on her
fingers, so the teacher had to “squeeze” her cheeks to free her fingers.
Photograph by WPBF News
But the father
wasn’t buying her story and asked to view the video himself.
week, the school director recanted her initial response, claiming there was a technical
malfunction that caused her to view the wrong video. The correct
footage—surprise!—showed a different series of events, which she then forwarded
to her managers. The director was told to terminate the teacher and the
classroom assistant immediately.
According to a
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report, the video showed the teacher
“pushing the child's head back. She appeared to force food into the child's
mouth at least twice. She was gripping the child's face with her hand, which is
consistent with the bruises I observed in the pictures."
investigations, conducted by the Department of Children and Families and the
Florida Department of Health, state that the video shows Brinley crying and
shaking while her teacher screamed "open up, open up.” The teacher was so loud that
another teacher came into the room to check on them.
the director who failed to report the incident (the same one who “accidentally”
viewed the wrong video footage) wasn’t fired. Instead, she was put on
administrative leave and later reassigned to the preschool's main campus.
overwhelming evidence of child abuse, confirmed by sheriff’s detectives, DCF
and the DOH—who cited the school for not reporting the incident to the Abuse Hotline
immediately as required by state law—school president Randal Martin stands by
the (now former) teacher’s original story. In early October, he sent a letter to
parents stating there were inaccuracies in the DOH report.
process of clearing food from the mouth of a choking student, the teacher
pinched the cheeks of the child … (causing) ... temporary bruising," he
attorney for the Cleary family, told reporters, “This is obviously a clear-cut case of an
assault and battery on an 18-month old child who obviously can’t speak or
The family is
suing the school, alleging that the director lied
and yet is still employed.
“I just want
parents to know the truth about The King’s Academy and who is running The
King’s Academy," Jamie said, "and it is not—I don’t think it’s a safe place. I mean, these
babies can’t even defend themselves.”