Former employee, mother say girl’s bruise wasn’t only problem at St. George child care facility

A sign for Little Harvard Academy stands outside of the day care facility near downtown St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2018 | Photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After several red flags caused a woman to question her children’s safety at a child care facility in St. George, she immediately withdrew her children and is warning other parents to do the same. However, despite her insistence, as well as concerns expressed by other parents and a former employee, authorities have been unable to substantiate the claims that the day care poses a threat to children.

Jeanetta Dockstader’s 3-year-old daughter displays a bruise on her arm that Dockstader said came from an incident at Little Harvard Academy, St. George, Utah, in January 2018 | Photo courtesy of Jeanetta Dockstader, St. George News

One of the biggest warning signs for Jeanetta Dockstader, a mother from St. George, was the appearance of some bruises on her 3-year-old daughter’s arm that she said resulted from an incident at Little Harvard Academy, a child care facility near downtown St. George.

Little Harvard’s Facebook page highlights smiling children participating in activities like field trips to a bowling alley or getting visits from Smokey Bear, and there hasn’t been any official findings of violations by the Department of Health.

However, Dockstader said her children and the children of other mothers with whom she’s spoken were at risk of harm at the day care center.

“I don’t think kids should be there,” Dockstader said.

“It was a hectic time”

The incident with Dockstader’s daughter receiving bruises happened in January, after which she withdrew her children. However, Dockstader didn’t ask managers at the day care about what could have caused the bruises until three days after the incident.

“When I asked the managers about it, they said they didn’t know what caused it and that it was a hectic time,” Dockstader said.

She said managers at Little Harvard Academy didn’t let Dockstader see footage from the cameras that were in the room at the time, so she couldn’t see what caused the bruises, which was another red flag for her.

Emily Baumgarten, who told St. George News she worked at Little Harvard for two years until April when she quit, said she heard the bruises on Dockstader’s daughter were caused by another employee grabbing her arm roughly to put her back on her cot when she kept getting up during nap time.

Dockstader said she filed a report with the St. George Police Department in July, adding that it took that long to get around to it with her busy schedule. After a brief investigation, police concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to support any child abuse relating to Dockstader’s daughter at Little Harvard.

“The bruise, in my opinion, was consistent with a typical three-year-old child falling down or banging into something,” wrote Michael Christensen, the responding police officer, on the police report. “I based this observation off my own own three-year-old and five-year-old.”

The police report also noted that because Dockstader waited until July to file the report, “it puts a damper on it due to the time frame.”

A picture shows Little Harvard Academy near downtown St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2018 | Photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

Tania Madrigal, the manager at Little Harvard Academy, told St. George News she did not believe the bruise was caused at the day care facility.

“When we talked to the girl and we talked to the staff, she told multiple staff members that she fell at her grandma’s,” Madrigal said.

Dockstader said there was no way it could have happened at the girl’s grandmother’s house because she first saw the bruise after picking her up from the day care. There was no bruise on her daughter’s arm when she dropped her off at the day care that day.

According to Madrigals statement on the police report, the reason why the staff at Little Harvard couldn’t give video footage of the incident to Dockstader was because she “was not able to provide any kind of time reference when she believed the incident occurred so they were not able to find any video of the incident.”

When she removed her children from the day care, Dockstader said she broke her contract by not giving Little Harvard a two-week notice that they were leaving. Because of that, Little Harvard is suing Dockstader in collections court for about $700 to cover costs associated with breaking the contract.

“If your kids are in danger, you have every right to pull them out and they should not be able to charge you for breaking the contract,” Dockstader said. “You can’t force someone to leave their kids in the day care and charge them while they’re getting hurt.”

Madrigal told St. George News that Dockstader is “just upset she has to pay her bill.”

Other concerns

In addition to the question of the bruise, Dockstader said her 6-year-old daughter witnessed a violent physical fight between employees where hair was being torn out. This fight resulted in one of the employees getting fired, Dockstader said.

Another time, she said her 3-year-old daughter was getting punched by another child when she arrived to pick up her children and employees wouldn’t do anything about it.

After taking her children out of Little Harvard, Dockstader took to social media to voice her concerns about the day care. Since then, she said she has received many messages from other mothers and former employees who also had concerns about abuse happening at the facility, such as children being left in dirty diapers all day and being neglected when crying.

Baumgarten said policies were rarely followed, and cleanliness was a big problem at the facility.

“There would be times when it just wasn’t very clean,” Baumgarten said. “There have been times when people who I worked with would have pictures of stuff like mold in the fridge.”

A sign for Little Harvard Academy stands outside of the day care facility near downtown St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2018 | Photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

There was a policy put in place at one point to prevent bullying at the facility by punishing children who bully other kids, but it was never followed, Baumgarten said, which led to bullying becoming rampant at the facility.

“There was nothing stopping the kids from being mean to each other,” Baumgarten said. “The managers just didn’t care.”

Baumgarten said she would only recommend bringing infants and children over the age of five to Little Harvard, because any other child between infancy and the age of five may get hurt from the “chaotic environment” at the facility.

While most of the reviews online are positive about Little Harvard, several other users wrote scathing reviews with additional concerns, and many of them have direct responses from management.

“I wish there was more I could do”

All of the concerns people had about Little Harvard prompted Elissa Youngbluth, a mother in St. George, to contact Child Protective Services about the day care.

Youngbluth never had kids enrolled in Little Harvard because she said she was turned off by the rude staff at the facility when looking for day cares in the area, but she said she has heard from other mothers about their experiences with Little Harvard.

“There’s been multiple times where people have been expressing these same concerns,” Youngbluth said. “I don’t believe there could be 30 or more people who have the same issues and there actually being nothing wrong with the facility. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Officials at the Department of Health and Child Protective Services would not confirm or deny receiving any complaints about Little Harvard, but Tom Hudachko, a Health Department spokesman, said there has not been any substantiated findings from investigations if there were complaints at the day care.

Christensen wrote in his police report that the Department of Health was contacted about the abuse claims, but a case was unlikely to be opened.

Amy Huggard, the owner of Little Harvard Academy declined to speak to St. George News about the concerns about her facility. She referred questions to her lawyer, Adam Dunn, who did not respond to multiple requests from St. George News for comment.

“I wish there was more I could do,” Dockstader said when asked if she was considering further legal action against Little Harvard. “I wouldn’t let any kids go there, especially after the way my kids were treated there. That’s not OK.”

Email: sricks@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @SpencerRicks

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  • Craig August 7, 2018 at 7:23 am

    The mother apparently took months to file a police report about this? Because she was too busy? She’s convinced her child was physically abused? But, no rush.

    I am sorry but I have a very hard time with this claim. And, I feel bad a business has been tarnished.

  • DRT August 7, 2018 at 9:06 am

    A three year old with a bruise? How can that be possible! This is obviously a clear case of parental child abuse!
    That statement makes every bit as much sense as what this mother is claiming. Taking this much time to report this because she’s been too busy is an admission of child neglect.
    Where do these flakes come from?

  • LunchboxHero August 7, 2018 at 10:25 am

    “Another time, she said her 3-year-old daughter was getting punched by another child when she arrived to pick up her children and employees wouldn’t do anything about it.” <– And yet you brought her back.

    "Dockstader took to social media to voice her concerns about the day care." <– Of course she did. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one Snapchats it, did it really happen?

  • Kilroywashere August 7, 2018 at 11:38 am

    I agree with initial posters above. To many holes in regards to this story. Sherlock Holmes need not apply. This is a case of using social media to resolve a dispute. Child day care business is a rocky road and exposed to this type of risk. It would be sad to destroy a person’s livelihood over heresay, unsubstantiated gossip, and potentially false info. If the facts were different, I might say the other side of the equation could possibly exist. No doubt businesses make mistakes etc… Don’t get me wrong. But this clearly is an attempt to destroy this business. If I were the parent, I would cease and desist and leave it to the authorities involved to resolve the issue. If you are wrong, and this business fails due to said allegations, you can be sued. Lawyers are not cheap.

  • comments August 7, 2018 at 11:41 am

    Daycares are the ideal place to spread disease. If you want you kid to pick up every flu and cold that comes around put them in a daycare. These sort of places probly end up with problem employees at times. They likely don’t pay enough to keep quality employees long-term. That’s pretty typical of daycare operations. Your kid may get slapped or yelled at or handled roughly. And that’s the chance you take leaving your kid at these sort of places. And even if your kid gets rough handled by an employee and bruised up a bit it’s likely not enough that the law is gonna decide to prosecute a child abuse case because of it. Maybe a series of real bad bruises or a broken bone, then just maybe. To get hired with these sort of places the only qualifiers are gonna be that the person is female (most often) and can pass a criminal background check (if even that). If you people think it’s a great idea to dump your kids at these kind of places, well, it’s your call. LOL’d at the name “little harvard”. so ridiculous, hahahaha

  • Rob83 August 7, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    If my child got a bruise like that and I knew it was from daycare and they didn’t tell me what happened, I’d go straight to CPS. That said, it is difficult to assume that 30 plus woman would lie about their experiences with a specific daycare. Kids shouldn’t have to worry about being in a hostile or uncleanly environment. Taking the testimony of those who had worked there and of a six year old should give a hint. I hope the case against this mother gets dropped and that those who care for children will not justify abuse, if you are abusive in any way to a child, find another profession.

  • Fatherator August 7, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Currently both my 6 year old and two year old go to Little Harvard and have since practically forever. Is this lady serious? has she ever intracted with children other than her own? There is a strict no tolarance of bullies posted on the door with a three strike policy and if it is a extreme enough offence. Automatic expulsion. And both of my children have been on the giving and receiving end of the spectrum, that is the way kids are in group settings. But every offence is a learning opportunity for that kid including mine on what it’s like to be bullied or to hurt others and have to deal with consequences. I 100% do not believe that the faculty at Little Harvard would cause harm to even the most unruly child no matter the case. I’ve seen more abuse toward the faculty from disrespectful children i.e. bitting kicking name calling, and their overzealous parents who would rather point the finger at others than accept what functioning adults had to learn at their age…to be kind. My kids come home happy, fed with stories to tell and scratches and bumps and bruises from all of the activities they have done throughout their day and look forward to returning.

    p.s. Notice how the writer only interviewed parents that had children leave or get kicked out and not the one who have kids attending currently. Poor journalism and an obvious grab for media attention.

  • Diana August 8, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    If my child got the bruises from the day care, I talked to the manager first. If the manager knew about the abuse and refuses to take action, then file a police report and take legal action. Kids need to be in a safe place where any abuse is zero tolerance.

  • WaitingForAMadManInABlueBox August 8, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    Look, I don’t know what actually happened, so I won’t comment on that. But it takes 1-2 days for bruises to appear. I’ve never seen a fully formed bruise like that from something that occurred within 8 hours. Therefore, noting that it wasn’t there in the morning but was in the afternoon gives no specificity as to when (or where) it happened.

    I guess my point is not that I side with the accusers or the accused, because it’s impossible to get any sort of knowledge from a story like this, but kids do constantly get hurt, and they also lie, distort, misunderstand, imagine, and act. I don’t say that to be derogatory; I have a 5-year-old son, and it’s just what is.

    • comments August 8, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      true, and that bruise looks like nothing. Kid prob banged her elbow on a table edge or something.

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