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Day Care Teachers Started Toddler Fight Club Because Kids 'Were Bored'

Photograph by Twenty20

The first rule of day care fight club is—WTF, people, just don't have a day care fight club. Two daycare teachers in St. Louis, Missouri, didn't get the memo, though, and somehow thought it was OK to encourage preschool kids to fight each other. The fights happened in 2016, but a video released Wednesday of one of the brawls is now causing national outrage.

The two teachers at the Adventure Learning Center were identified as Mickala Guliford and Tena Dailey. According to documents released by Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to NBC News, Jennifer Scott, the director of the center, said Guliford told her the kids "were bored," they "ran out of things to do" and they took the kids to a lower floor because the heating system on the other floors were broken. (Um, how about Heads Up, Seven Up instead? A new art project? Putting on an educational movie? Anything that doesn't require violence?!)

"I meant for the fighting with the (Incredible) Hulk hands to be a stress-release exercise," the teacher said, adding that no children got hurt. "It did not last more than three or four minutes." (Court documents, however, suggest there were 30 minutes' worth of fights.)

Scott fired the teachers and contacted the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. The facility also completed corrective measures in April 2017 to ensure staff were trained and knowledgeable about age-appropriate activities for children. But the state did not file any criminal charges.

Nicole Merseal, a mom who said her son was beaten up, feels the teachers and day care were not held accountable. She filed a lawsuit alleging the teachers "directed a fight club" and her son, who had just turned 4 on that day, suffered physical injuries and mental harm as a result of the fight.

The shocking video that clued her into what was happening was sent to her by her 10-year-old, who recorded one of the brawls on his iPad after the teachers in his brother's class did not stop the fighting.

In the video, kids gathered around two kids squaring up in the center of a blue mat. One of the teachers gives each combatant one large Hulk glove each, while another jumps up and down, cheering from the sidelines. One of the kids keeps pummeling his classmate even though he's on the ground. At one point, another child tries to break up the fight but fails.

When Merseal got the video, she immediately left work and called the day care to stop the fighting.

"My son was very afraid," the mom told ABC News. "He didn't understand why his best friends beat him up. These are children that he's been around for a couple years. He described them as his best friends. He just doesn't understand why they punched him in the face. ... I don't know any parent that could watch their children go through this and not be upset."

A statement from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office to People said, "There was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any laws were violated. However, that does not diminish the incredibly poor judgment by these adults who had the responsibility to safely supervise these children."

Merseal is suing the day care for negligence, recklessness and breach of contract, and seeking $25,000 in damages.

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