An Ohio grandmother is demanding that a local day care be closed and a worker caught on video slapping her 1-year-old granddaughter be jailed.
According to a police report obtained by Atlanta Black Star, Vonita Philips’ granddaughter, Avalynn, was “popped her in the mouth” after biting a worker. Day care staff showed the child’s mother footage of the Feb. 2 incident and immediately fired the worker from Crayons Academy. However, Phillips said the center has a culture of abuse, and the accused worker, Dana Collins, should face a harsher penalty.
The grandmother also accused the day care’s owner of downplaying and justifying the assault on Avalynn. Phillips believes her granddaughter’s case is not getting adequate attention because of her race.
“I feel that if the color of our skin was different, it would have been a different outcome,” Phillips told Atlanta Black Star. “I feel like, given the fact that it happened in a white town. It’s a white prosecutor. It’s a white teacher. It’s a white officer, and it’s just my brown grandbaby.”
She also fears that other vulnerable children, who are mostly non-verbal, will continue to fall victim to abuse as long as Crayons Academy still operates. She held protests outside the day care demanding its closure days after the incident.
“Abuse Happens Here,” one of the signs said.
Candyce Allen told West Carrollton police that she received a call from the day care around 1:45 p.m. advising her that her daughter, who turned 2 on March 5, had been slapped. She told police her daughter could not talk as yet and had previously bitten Collins despite not having any issues with any other employers.
Officer Jared Moore escorted her inside the facility where they watched a video of the incident, which did not include audio.
Moore said he saw Collins at a table with three toddlers, including Avalynn, coloring on paper at 9:19 a.m. Avalynn tried to reach into a box of crayons, but Collins grabbed her hands to stop her. The toddler then bit Collins on her wrist before the daycare worker slapped her in the right cheek, mouth area, according to the report.
“It was difficult to gauge the intensity of the strike from the video,” the officer wrote. “After Phillips was struck, she let go of Collins’ hand and stared at her before pointing her finger in her direction. Phillips did not appear to get emotional after the incident.”
Moore said he did not see any visible injuries on the toddler, and he took evidence photographs for the police record. He reported the incident to family services.
Photos taken by the family after the incident and sent to Atlanta Black Star show faint red marks on Avalynn’s face.
Collins received a citation for child endangerment for her alleged assault on Avalynn. However, Phillips believes that the misdemeanor charge is not enough for her to pay criminally. The family is also considering civil action against Collins and the day care.
“Abuse, neglect and mistreatment is the culture at that day care, but it seems to get swept under the rug,” Phillips said.
Phillips said she received a frantic text from her son, Avalynn’s father that day. She wrote a review on Crayons Academy’s Google page, which unraveled a slew of other allegations. She also saw Collins had a photo gallery littered with Confederate flags on her Facebook page.
The city’s population is 77 percent white and 12 percent Black, U.S. Census data shows.
The grandmother has rallied for family services and police to investigate further. Allen quit her job in response to the incident so that she could stay home with Avalynn in fear of putting her at risk for more abuse.
“I don’t think any child should be at that day care,” said Phillips.
Another parent accused the center of forgetting to put her children on the bus and not reporting accidents or injuries. In one instance, her 1-year-old fell and hit his head on concrete, but the school didn’t contact his parents, who eventually found out at the end of the day. It took four days for her to see the video footage, the parent alleged in the review from two years ago.
“I guess I choose it without doing much research,” wrote a parent with two children who attended Crayons Academy.
A former employee sent Phillips a Facebook message detailing the culture at Crayons’ Academy.
The woman who was identified as Alyssa in the screenshot obtained by Atlanta Black Star said one infant who could not walk reportedly fell and banged her head “very badly” under a new teacher’s supervision. There were no witnesses or camera footage, “so it didn’t add up,” she wrote.
Alyssa also accused the day care of physical and emotional abuse.
Crayons Academy apologized to Avalynn’s family and condemned Collins in a response to Phillips’ online review. Still, in the same response, the owner called the slap a “reflex action.”
“Based on our review of the video footage, we think that it was a light slap, nonetheless, it was a slap and we condemn it in every possible way,” the owner wrote. “As soon as we saw the footage, we had a Management meeting and we terminated the concerned teacher immediately.”
Crayons’ Academy Director Elizabeth Drew refused to provide additional comment to Atlanta Black Star but confirmed that she fired the worker, and she was subsequently charged.
A Feb. 8 inspection of the day care by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found that a staff member used corporal punishment on children, deemed a moderate risk.
The state inspector, Keyauna Baber, instructed Crayons Academy to train staff on appropriate responses and to submit a corrective action plan by March 31.
However, Ayalynn’s father, Marques Phillips, received a letter from a county family services case worker on Feb. 28 concluding that allegations of physical abuse by Collins were “unsustained.”
The family said after Collins was charged, prosecutors went radio silent. Phillips said she found out about the former day care worker’s court date after requesting a copy of the police report. Collins is set to return to court on March 27 for a preliminary hearing.
The grandmother wants authorities to open an investigation into the day care based on the reviews she read and the direct conversations with parents and the former employee.
In the meantime, Phillips has been holding Avalynn, one of her three grandchildren, extra tight.
“It’s heartbreaking as a whole to know that he experienced such trauma at an early age,” she said.