HAMILTON, Miss. (AP) — State regulators are investigating after a video showing four daycare employees scaring children at a facility in an unincorporated northeast Mississippi community went viral on a social media site.
The videos on Facebook show a daycare worker at Lil’ Blessings Child Care & Learning Center in Hamilton 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 about 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 has owned the business for the past 20 years, said she was unaware of the videos until Wednesday afternoon, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.
Sanders said one video was filmed in September, and another on Tuesday. “No one came forth to tell me it happened in September,” she said.
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. Liz Sharlot, director of communications at the state health department, confirmed the incident is under investigation.
Thursday morning, parents reacted to the videos as they dropped off their children for care, expressing their support for the facility.
“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. “The witch hunt that has been going on for her and the other ones still here, it really needs to stop. Was the situation that did happen horrible? Absolutely. But should this daycare be shut down and others be villainized that are still here, absolutely not.”