Ray Van Dusen
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
Four employees of a Hamilton daycare have been fired after a video of them scaring children at the facility went viral on Facebook.
Videos that went viral on Facebook on Wednesday night show a daycare worker at Lil’ Blessings Child Care & Learning Center wearing a Halloween mask and yelling at children who didn’t “clean up” or “act good.” Children can be seen and heard crying and, at times, running away from the employee wearing the mask while another employee gives directions of which children acted good or bad. The employee in the mask is shown inches away from children’s faces at times raising her voice and screaming.
Sheila Sanders, who began working at the daycare in 1987 and has owned it for the past 20 years, said she wasn’t aware of the videos until Wednesday afternoon. The behavior shown by her former employees in the video, she said, isn’t tolerated.
“I contacted my licensure, and she has gotten involved,” Sanders said. “The people that did those acts are no longer with us. They were fired. I wasn’t here at the time and wasn’t aware they were doing that. I don’t condone that and never have. I just want to say it’s been taken care of.”
The Mississippi State Department of Health and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the matter.
Liz Sharlot, director of communications at the Mississippi Department of Health, confirmed the incident is under investigation.
Sanders said one video was filmed in September, and another was filmed on Tuesday.
“No one came forth to tell me it happened in September,” she said.
Thursday morning, parents reacted to the videos as they dropped off their children for care, expressing their support for Lil’ Blessings and reacting to some of the online backlash the video has received.
“I know 100% that Ms. Sheila, the owner and director, was not aware of this situation that was going on and as soon as she found out, all parties were terminated immediately,” said Kimberly Smith, whose child can be seen in one of the videos. “Am I okay with what happened to the extent of what happened? Absolutely not, but I know she took care of it, and my babies are safe here.”
Chas Allen, who has a student in pre-kindergarten who began being cared for in the baby room at Lil’ Blessings, expressed the same support.
“This place is pretty important for Hamilton because it’s a small town and there’s not really another childcare facility close. A lot of people are saying, ‘Shut it down. Shut it down,’ but I don’t think they’re thinking about the implications that that might have. If there was a daycare next door, I would still bring my kids here,” he said.
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