ST. LOUIS – Teachers at Adventure Learning Center in St. Louis organized a one-day fight club for preschoolers in December 2016. The lead teacher organized it after the heater broke in an attempt to entertain the kids.
State regulators increased inspections after the incident, and follow up visits found other types of violations.
A 10-year-old who was with older kids in the next room captured video of the fighting with his iPad. He was worried about his little brother, who was crying after three fights.
In the video, you can see one teacher who appears excited as she’s jumping up and down. You can see another teacher putting hulk fists on preschoolers.
Mother Nicole Merseal cannot watch without crying.
“He doesn't understand why his friends were fighting him - why he was beaten up by his best friends. And, it was on his 4th birthday,” Merseal told KTVI.
The iPad video shows a fight in which the kids fall to the ground while a teacher kicks into the air in excitement. The only person who tries breaking it up is another preschooler, but he cannot stop one child from pounding the other's head into the floor.
Merseal believes it only stopped because her older son texted her video. She called the director to stop it. She said her older son texted the video, saying “The daycare was making them fight, not helping them.”
Daycare cameras recorded at least 30 minutes, fight after fight - video Merseal said can be monitored by staff.
Though it happened nearly two years ago, Merseal doesn't think enough was done.
“I want them to be held accountable, and I don't want this to happen to any other child,” she said.
The police report said the director immediately fired both teachers and called the child abuse hotline. The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office declined to prosecute.
Both teachers had no comment.
Though state regulators substantiated the complaint, Adventure Learning Center Gravois continued operating normally but with increased inspections. Eight visits document 26 wide-ranging violations - though none exactly like the fight club incident.
In March 2018, "a 4-year-old child" said a teacher "cussed at him, flicked him, grabbed him and pushed him to the ground."
Also, in March, an "agency staff member observed a caregiver... grab a child approximately 3 years old by the arm and drag/carry the child." The report said the "(director) was standing in this classroom and did not respond..."
Merseal wonders about training. She pointed to how a teacher noticed her son crying that December day in 2016.
“In the video, he's wiping his face over and over again. The daycare worker - you see her walk over to him and tell him, you know, 'You're fine' and, you know, pat him on the back and then walk and start another fight with other kids,” she said.
Merseal said now she struggles making her son realize fighting at daycare is not widely accepted.
“When we chose a new daycare for him and he started going, he asked me in the car if they were going to make him fight,” she said.
No one from Adventure Learning Center Gravois would comment.