The lead teacher at a St. Louis day care organized a one-day fight club for preschoolers in December 2016 to entertain the kids after a heater broke, a mom who's suing says, reports KTLA sister station KTVI in St. Louis, Missouri.
State regulators increased inspections at Adventure Learning Center 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, according to KTVI.
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, who filed the lawsuit, cannot watch without crying.
“He doesn't understand why his friends were fighting him -- why he was beaten up by his best friends," she told KTVI. "And it was on his 4th birthday.”
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.
She said she called the director and confronted her about it after her older son texted the video saying, “The daycare was making them fight, not helping them.” Merseal believes that's the only reason it stopped.
Day care cameras recorded at least 30 minutes, fight after fight — video Merseal says can be monitored by staff.
Though it happened nearly two years ago, Merseal doesn't think enough was done in response.
“I want them to be held accountable and I don't want this to happen to any other child,” she said.
The police report states the director immediately fired both teachers and called the child abuse hotline. The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office declined to prosecute.
Both teachers involved had no comment.
Though state regulators substantiated the complaint, Adventure Learning Center continued operating normally, albeit 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," according to one report.
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," another document states, adding that the "(director) was standing in this classroom and did not respond..."
Merseal wonders about the center's training policies. She claimed a teacher noticed her son crying the day of the brawl.
“In the video, he's wiping his face over and over again," she said. "The day care worker, you see her walk over to him and tell him, 'You're fine,' and pat him on the back and then walk and start another fight with other kids.”
She says now she struggles making her son realize fighting at day care is not widely accepted.
“When we chose a new day care for him and he started going he asked me in the car if they were going to make him fight,” Merseal said.
No one from Adventure Learning Center would comment for this report.