Prince William County police have launched a criminal investigation into a Woodbridge day-care center where state officials said two workers abused toddlers by spraying them with a full-pressure hose, feeding them Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and stepping on their toes.
The incidents occurred over a six-month period at the Minnieland Academy at the Glen in the 4200 block of Prince William Parkway, according to an inspection report by the Virginia Department of Social Services.
No criminal charges have been filed and authorities are “in the middle of the investigation,” according to Officer Jonathan Perok, a spokesman for the county police department. He said that the investigation is based on what was reported to the state’s Department of Social Services and that the police probe began last week.
“We are investigating the assaults that allegedly took place at the facility,” he said.
According to the state report, two workers, identified in the report only as staffers A and B, abused the toddlers. Those employees have been fired, the report said.
The state’s social services report said children suffered “on-going physical, emotional and psychological maltreatment in the classroom” and were “clearly in distress.”
Although the incidents were “observed by several staff, no staff took action” until August, according to the report. The report is based on two inspections, one done in August and the other in September.
The state report was first reported by InsideNoVa.com. In a statement, Minnieland officials said they “deeply regret” the incidents. They said the two employees were immediately fired when their conduct came to light and that management contacted child protective services and the division of licensing.
Minnieland officials said workers who witnessed the incidents and failed to report the conduct are no longer with the company.
According to the report, staffers A and B mistreated toddlers “often for their own entertainment.”
The report says the two encouraged toddlers to hit and smack each other.
In one instance, another employee tried unsuccessfully to intervene. The two staffers then continued encouraging the children to hit, telling one toddler to hit another “because the other toddler took something from you,” the report said.
Another time, two toddlers were “smacking each other” and the two staffers “failed to intervene and stated ‘that’s what sisters do.’ ”
In one instance, two staffers yelled at a toddler, telling her that she was “ugly and that her face and lips looked like a rat,” the report said.
They told toddlers who had soiled their diapers to “get away and that they stink.”
According to the report, the two staffers stepped on the toes of toddlers, saying it was “humorous and entertaining.” This spring, one of the staffers told others who worked at the facility that she had fed several toddlers Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and to “look at the toddlers’ cheeks as their faces were turning red.”
When four toddlers got off of their cots during nap times, the two staffers picked them up and tossed them back onto the cots, according to the report. When the children cried, the staffers “put blankets over their faces as they wept.”
In the summer, the two staffers singled out toddlers who were known to be scared of water, the report said.
They would dip them into a portable pool and when the children screamed and cried, the two staffers laughed and continued to put them in the water.
The two staffers would also routinely turn on the water hose and “at full pressure spray the children, often in their faces,” the report said.
In one case, one of the staffers refused to stop spraying the toddlers with a hose even after witnesses asked the staffer to stop, the report said. The staffer then dumped a bucket of water over one of the children’s heads. When the child cried, the staffer turned the hose on the toddler. The toddler screamed and ran from the water and fell, hitting her head on a piece of playground equipment. She suffered a bruise to the back of her ear.
The facility takes care of children ranging in age from infancy to 12 years old, according to the state inspection records. The center has a two-year day-care license, which is to expire in July 2015.
It is part of a chain of day-care centers that was founded in 1972 and has dozens of facilities in Prince William, Stafford, Loudoun and Fairfax counties, Fredericksburg and Richmond, according to the company’s Web site.