Mississippi: A church day-care center was placed on probation after workers were accused of slapping children, locking them in closets, forcing them to clean toilets and tying them to chairs, state Department of Health officials said Friday.
Three workers at the Raymond First Baptist Church Child Development Center also were relieved of child-care duties on Thursday, officials said.
The center has been allowed to stay open under a restricted license that requires all staff to take training classes and gives the Health Department unlimited access to monitor the center's activities.
The Health Department started investigating the day-care center after a complaint was called in on June 10, said Liz Sharlot, director of communications for the Department of Health.
Two of the workers relieved of their duties also were disciplined in October 2003 for allegedly grabbing a child, according to Department of Health records. They were ordered to attend a "discipline and guidance" class offered by the Department of Health but never went, records show.
Workers at the day care declined to comment Friday, saying all statements should be made through Mark Strum, pastor of the church.
Strum could not be reached for comment.
"This is a very precious place for us," said Shirley Segrest, interim director of the center. "But I can't comment on this. I'm sorry."
Sharlot said the center could have appealed the probation but chose not to. The center did, however, appeal a fine.
The amount of the fine and the reasons for the fine were not disclosed.
In a report by investigator Katie Howell, the state found several instances of the three day-care workers abusing children. None of the women could be reached for comment.
In one instance, a child was left outside in the sun in a highchair as punishment, while other children were playing on the playground, the report said.
One person interviewed said the child was "whimpering like a puppy" and that the child's face was "red as fire" and the "face and ears were burnt."
Another instance detailed how a worker "dropped an infant and has slapped one for crying so long."
Kathy Shaw, who works at another day care, the First Baptist Church Weekday Ministry in Ridgeland, said it was difficult to believe the allegations.
"Most day cares are good, but from time to time these things happen. I have kids and I can't imagine what I would do if mine went through something like this," she said.
Shaw said at her day care, children are disciplined only by time out, and if they are still misbehaving, parents are called.
"We have a strict policy," she said. "That's all we can do."
The Department of Health turned its findings over to the Raymond Police Department. Police Chief Frank Price could not be reached Friday.
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