Day care stops vinegar punishment
By Becky Bell
News-Journal, May 22, 2004

Children weren't the only ones left with a bad taste in their mouths after their Longview day care was cited by the state for using vinegar as punishment.

In an April 29 report issued by the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, the Rose Heights Christian Academy at 1500 West Hawkins Parkway was found to be in violation of putting vinegar on children's tongues for using bad language or sticking their tongues out, said Geoff Wool, director of public information for the state agency.

A Rose Heights Christian Academy representative says child care workers at the school learned about the practice during a seminar approved by the same agency that issued the citation.

Wool said the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services acknowledges hours received by teachers but doesn't regulate the training.

"They had been told at this training that the state allowed workers to put vinegar and cocoa on the tongues of children, but they were misinformed," Wool said. "This is not something we've seen before. Our minimum standards say children must not be shaken, bitten, hit or have anything put in or on their mouth as punishment, so this was clearly a violation of those minimum standards."

Venus Smith, an administrative assistant at Rose Heights Church of God, which oversees the day care, said the church got the information from a January 2003 workshop sponsored by Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences and Stephen F. Austin State University.

Smith said the day care serves about 65 children ranging in age from 2 years to first-graders.

"The situation has been taken care of, and we are now in compliance with the state," Smith said. "We had a review the other day and passed with flying colors."

Lynn and Betty Hildreth, pastors of Rose Heights, could not be reached for comment because they were on vacation, Smith said.

Wool said the day care, which opened in September 2000, appears to have a good history of compliance. Because the facility stays in compliance, the state only makes annual visits as compared with less compliant facilities that require visits every several months, he said.

"This is a good operating facility that is in regular compliance with our regular standards. It appears they got some bad advice as far as discipline is concerned, and once they realized what they were doing was a violation of minium standards, they corrected the situation immediately," Wool said.

Wool said the first report received by the state agency indicated that children were being forced to drink the vinegar, but actually it was just being "dotted" on the tongues of children who misbehaved.

There is no medical consequence of giving a child vinegar, but it does taste bad and it's not something all parents are going to favor as a form of discipline, said Dr. Samantha Chaikin of Premier Pediatrics.

"This is just like in the olden days when parents used to wash our mouths out with soap, but I'm not sure I would be pleased with a day care if they (gave my child vinegar)," said Chaikin, a doctor of osteopathic medicine. "I tend to use more of a time out method rather than the authoritative method. Obviously if this was a standard practice in their day care, they should have let parents know."

However, opinions in the clinic have varied, she said. One of the doctors at the clinic said she didn't have any problem with the practice. while some patients' parents have discussed the situation and threatened to remove their children because of the vinegar.

No teachers lost their jobs over the situation, Smith said.

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