The day after ABC Action News spoke to a parent whose child was enrolled at Kinderhouse Preschool in Sarasota, the director kicked the child out.
The parent told us she was penalized for exercising her right to free speech and raising awareness about the daycare.
The dismissal of Erica Baldwin’s daughter, 3, stems from comments posted on a Facebook page regarding the staff’s decision not to let parents know they were under investigation by the state of Florida for leaving a 4-year-old child in a van during a field trip. The child was left in the van for two hours while under the care of the Director Laura Marrone and two other staff members, according to a letter released by the Florida Department of Health.
“A lot of anger comes from this, a lot of anger. Because, I feel like they were trying to cover something up,” Erica Baldwin said.
Baldwin said after she talked to ABC Action News on Tuesday, the director approached her the next day with a quote from our report questioning her for talking to the media. Baldwin says the director then handed her other Facebook posts her husband made asking questions about why parents didn’t know the daycare where their child was enrolled was under investigation by the Department of Children and Families for allegations of abuse or neglect.
“What if it was a longer field trip? What if that child was left in there for more than two hours? There could've been serious consequences and they are not looking at that side of it. He was ok, so the situation is ok, and it's not,” Baldwin said.
According to the report the Director of Kinderhouse Preschool, Laura Marrone, was involved in the incident.
The report states, "You and the two staff members involved in the incident confirmed the incident. During the investigation we discussed the importance of compliance with the supervision and transportation rules. Technical support was provided in order to bring the facility into compliance and to prevent any future non- compliances.”
Marrone would not comment only telling ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska to leave the property as she called the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
The daycare paid a $250 fine and according to the report had to complete a Corrective Action Plan. Marrone and the two other unnamed staff members were also required to “complete the DCF (2) hours online Transportation Safety class within 15 working day of the receipt of this letter.”
Baldwin said they planned to find a new daycare for their daughter because of how the owners handled what happened. She also thinks the punishment handed down by the Department of Health was lenient compared to what a parent might have faced if they found themselves in the same situation.
“A parent might go to jail,” Baldwin said. “I feel like they were trying to defend themselves more than to have compassion for the situation and sympathy for the parents and the child. I just feel like they were trying to defend themselves.”
The investigative report for Abuse/Neglect is still pending by the Department of Children and Families.
There are a number of resources online for parents searching for the right preschool or daycare facility. Click here to search through providers.