Report of a lawsuit involving LS preschool surfaces

tporter@lsjournal.comNovember 1, 2013 

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    Number of years Elite Start Preschool in Lee’s Summit has been in business. The owners are currently being sued by a Lee’s Summit woman who alleges her child was tied to a cot during nap time and later shown on a social media site bound to the cot.

A Lee’s Summit man said he and his fiancee were aghast when word spread that a former preschool in which their 3-year-old child was once enrolled was being sued by a parent of another former child who was tied to a cot and later shown on a social media site bound to the cot.

A whirlwind of attention befell Elite Start Preschool, 1905 E. Langsford Rd., last week after television station KCTV-5 reported the lawsuit filed by Shaeley Walsh of Lee’s Summit. The report stated a picture posted in April on social media site Instagram shows a 2-year-old girl tied to a cot by a blanket around her waist. The caption on the post says: “This is what happens when you piss me off during nap time! Get tied to your cot!”

Reached by telephone Oct. 30, Jeffrey Baker, a lawyer for Elite Start owners Maria Victoria Johnson and John Johnson, said the lawsuit is old news, but declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending. Reached the following day, Maria Victoria Johnson also declined comment on the pending lawsuit, which, according to casenet.com, is scheduled for a jury trial in July of 2014.

Walsh’s attorney, Gene Graham was also unavailable for comment.

KCTV-5 reported that the poster was 24 years old and worked at Elite Start Preschool as an assistant at the time. She worked there with a teacher who told investigators she knew about the blanket being tied around the toddler’s waist, but wasn’t aware the photo had been posted anywhere. Elite Start immediately suspended the assistant then fired her the next day, after the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services completed its investigation.

The television station also reported the teacher who was there when the assistant tied the blanket and took the photo was “placed under improvement status.” The preschool, only 3-years-old itself, is still operating, although the state required the preschool to write a “corrective action plan ... specifically targeting how to handle children’s difficult behaviors as appropriate discipline.

For now, attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendants are not speaking on record about the incident, but a parent of a former student at the preschool is.

Anthony, who didn’t want his last name to be used, said he pulled his son out of the preschool in September, long before the news of the cot-tying incident and subsequent lawsuit became public.

The Lee’s Summit man said his son complained to him that the son’s teachers “did not like him” because of his reluctance to nap at the allotted time. Anthony said he thought it was unusual for his son to bemoan sleep time, and he became appalled at the preschool’s explanation for his child’s behavior.

“Everything was fine, then all of sudden one day he started having issues with sleeping, which he had never had before,” Anthony said. “He had always taken a nap. We figured it could be possible with him – he didn’t go on a regular basis; he went two or three times a week. Things just started getting worse and worse. Each time that we would go pick him up and asked how he was doing, they were just like, almost in a negative tone, ‘he didn’t sleep during the day’ or ‘it wasn’t a good day.’

“We kind of asked about what was going on, and they said ‘we think it’s because his original teacher is no longer seeing him on a regular basis.’ I thought that was really weird that they kept saying he was doing so bad because he would go over my sister’s house or my parent’s house and he’d sleep just fine, or he would go to my fiancee’s friend’s house and sleep just fine. I just didn’t get the fact that he was doing so bad there…after that we decided to take him out after they took him out of the classroom and had him sleep on the owner’s floor.”

Anthony said he and his fiancee were on vacation in Las Vegas when news broke about the lawsuit, which was filed in May. Anthony added he and his fiancee are not planning to sue, but just wanted the public to know the problems they’ve encountered at Elite Start.

“When we spoke to the owner about our concerns with our son, she told us that she sits there and watches the camera all day, everyday and she’s never seen anything bad happen in any of the classrooms,” he said. “This is after she obviously had already known about the inquiry that somebody had put against them about the cot. I thought that was a little funny she said that when she knew she was already being investigated at that point.”

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