Parents accuse KidSPOT Learning Center of neglect, withholding classroom video

Published: Jul. 17, 2022 at 9:50 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 17, 2022 at 10:58 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - More parents of a beleaguered daycare demand answers.

A 4-year-old boy’s parents claim her son is the victim of another terrible incident at KidSPOT Learning Center in Jonesboro.

The Mathises say their son was in a room with inadequate supervision allowing for him to eat a pencil.

“April 1, I was called by the nurse, and she stated that my son had eaten pencil, pencil lead about an inch of pencil,” said Tonina Mathis.

A letter from the Department of Human Services’ Division of Provider Services & Quality Assurance states after reviewing video from April 1, the facility failed to ensure appropriate supervision.

Not only was one child running and jumping over a chair multiple times, the letter stated, but Tonina and Nathan Mathis’ son was also eating a pencil while an assistant teacher was nearby.

“He was looking at something, playing games on a tablet, so he never looked up,” Tonina Mathis said. “After that, the teacher comes from the other the of the room to check on the other little boy and she looks towards his direction.”

According to the report, after the Mathis’ son chewed on the pencil for three minutes, a second teacher eventually saw him and removed it from his mouth.

“I saw his head go back and she tried to get something out of his mouth and then after that, she turned around because I think he bit her finger,” Mathis said.

Mathis says the teacher and nurse called to say they got a majority of the pencil out his mouth that day and he was fine.

However, a little more than 24 hours later, her son started to feel worse.

“I had already contacted his doctor to see if I needed to take him to the emergency room or what she thought. And so after he threw up, maybe like 20 minutes later, he was up getting back to his normal self,” Mathis said.

Although he seemed fine, the entire incident was enough for the Mathises to say he could not return ever again.

“We had decided that we weren’t letting him go back to class after that, due to some other things that we had already been dealing with the school with regression happening and then this happened and we had just pretty much said okay, that’s the final draw,” Mathis said.

But, it isn’t the end of the battle.

The family is pushing for accountability and clarity on how the Division of Provider Services & Quality Assurance/Licensing found the facility out of compliance for adequate supervision, but the Division of Children and Family Services, a different division, but under the Department of Human Services found the same case accusation of neglect unsubstantiated.

“Licensing went out to see the video and they did cooperate with them. I think it was two surveyors [who] went out to view the footage, but by the time division of Children and Family Services went out, they gave them the runaround,” Mathis said.

According to Mathis, when Child and Family Services requested KidSPOT to hand over the video, KidSPOT refused.

Her claims are supported by this investigation report between DHS workers and KidSPOT adminstation: Arkansas Dept. of Human Services - Report to Prosecuting Attorney »

On April 18, Craighead County Children and Family Services worker, Pamela Smith who was over the investigation told Mathis that it was her due diligence to retrieve the footage, but she also told her that “without the video footage, the investigation may be found unsubstantiated, due to a lack of preponderance of evidence.”

But, just four days before, the owner of KidSPOT, Gina Deuter Tilton sent an email to Provider Services and Quality Assurance, saying “due to concerns regarding previously recordings that were shared with DHS being given to the media, we are not comfortable with emailing the requested video at this time. Gina then says they have reached out to their legal team on how to proceed with releasing the video.”

Tilton only offered DHS an opportunity to visit the facility and view the footage.

This then sparked confusion for Pamela Smith with Family Services, prompting her to reach out to DHS’ Attorney Supervisor and another employee saying several things:

  • “After reaching out to KidSpot numerous times to view the video footage, they finally reached out to me claiming the footage was deleted after the 15th day.”
  • “Basically, KidSpot is accusing DHS “me” of leaking the video footage that made the news. Which I was interviewed today by Internal Affairs, and is false.” “Kidspot released to the Prosecuting Attorney and the Attorney gave mom that copy. I know they didn’t think DHS did it…lol My Supervisor and I don’t even know how to save it to forward to the Judge for the appeal hearing.
  • “At this point, KidSpot (Gina) is interfering with my investigation, which is preventing me to work it thoroughly.”
  • “Regarding my new investigation, I plan to still get their attorney’s information so we all can get on one accord. Because withholding vital evidence on a false assumption is hindering my investigation and future investigations with this lingering issue.”

As predicted, that division found the case unsubstantiated with the missing video; something the Mathises say is unacceptable.

“This type of investigation, neglect, inadequate supervision, they should have a better plan in place as far as the investigation when the facility is trying to withhold information, withhold footage of this sort,” Nathan Mathis said.

DHS told Region 8 News the licensing rules for this facility do not specifically require staff to keep the video. But, they are required to cooperate with investigators. In this case, the facility did allow them to watch.

Below is its full statement:

We also reached out to the owner of KidSpot. We have yet to hear back.

The Mathises say it’s as simple as wanting a safe environment for all children.

“How many children have gotten hurt because of inadequate supervision because of just neglect or abuse, understaffed or not paying attention to the staff that you are hiring, not going through the proper protocol to hire people that are certified people to take care of our most precious cargo, which is our children?” Tonina Mathis asked.

This is KAIT’s third report regarding KidSPOT Learning Center.

After receiving several messages and calls from viewers, Region 8 News decided to dig a bit deeper into what could be happening behind the doors of the facility and submitted several Freedom of Information Act requests.

We learned that DHS surveyors have inspected the facility nine times since August 19, 2020. Six of those inspections resulted in prescribed Plans of Correction.

Below you can read those six Plans of Correction letters:

Compliance Notice - Kidspot 10-2-2020 »

Compliance Notice - Kidspot 12-13-2021 » | Compliance Notice - Kidspot 12-13-2021B »

Compliance Notice - Kidspot 5-19-21 »

Compliance Notice - Kidspot 3-28-22 »

Compliance Notice - Kidspot 2-28-22 »

Compliance Notice - Kidspot 1-26-22 »

Many of those investigations revolved around lack of adequate supervision and abuse, including when a gate was left open in May of 2021.

Two children were able to get outside of the playground and were unattended for approximately one minute.

In a letter to DHS, KidSPOT HR Administrator Belinda Ciganek explained there were seven children on the playground with two staff present. A parent of one child came to pick up one of the children on the playground and did not properly lock the gate back.

However, Ciganek acknowledge it wasn’t the parent’s responsibility and “this was an incident that could have been prevented by the two staff supervising the children properly and found that to prevent this type of incident from happening in the future would be the termination of both staff.”

In December of 2021, an investigation stated two workers punished or used interventions that are physically or emotionally painful, frighten, or put the beneficiary at medical risk.

A letter dated March 2020 from KidSPOT explained that both staff members involved in the incident were terminated immediately and all staff members were reminded of how to ask for assistance with a child if there is a behavioral challenge in the classroom.

In March of this year, Region 8 News received a video of a teacher using inappropriate discipline on a child by pushing and carrying the child inappropriately. The teacher was eventually terminated; however, she served no jail time and was given one year of probation.

Gavin Lesnick works in the office of communications and community engagement for DHS. He confirmed that the facility has been placed on bi-weekly monitoring visits in May.

When asked, how many Plans of Correction and investigations can a facility have before they are considered for revocation of license, Lesnick responded: “It’s determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the enforcement history of the facility, the level/type and number of deficiencies, and the rules applicable to said deficiencies.”

To check the latest reports, complaints, and visits for KidSPOT and other Arkansas daycare facilities, visit the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education website.

Copyright 2022 KAIT. All rights reserved.