Treehouse Academy in Crockett, Texas was recently hit with a lawsuit over claims of a child neglect and abuse.
A daycare in Crockett, Texas is at the center of a lawsuit filed by seven families over allegations of child neglect and abuse that occurred in 2020. Leger Ketchum & Cohoon, PLLC is representing the families.
The suit was filed in Montgomery County District Court against Treehouse Academy and claims “several employees at Treehouse Academy physically and verbally abused children, violated the minimum standards for child care centers required by the State of Texas and failed to hire qualified staff, train existing staff and adequately supervise and manage staff.”
The suit states:
“The children are experiencing significant separation anxiety, developmental regression, significant distress, and anxiety, among other things…The psychological impact on the minor children is severe and permanent and has caused their families great distress, not only emotionally, but also financially.”
The daycare is owned and operated by Lindsay Rise. She was cited by the State of Texas a handful of times for “failing to meet minimum childcare center standards.” According to a review of the daycare’s history, “the facility was cited for deficiencies 12 times in the last five years.” Half of the deficiencies were recorded in 2020 and included prohibited punishments, including “harsh, cruel or unusual punishments such as spanking, hitting or shaking.”
Some of the alleged deficiencies that happened in 2020 were related to an abuse incident reported to police in April 2020. Paula Mendez “told officers her two-year-old son had been crying a lot and acting differently over the past several weeks.” Mendez was worried that something suspicious was going on with her child, so she “approached Lindsay Rice and requested to review surveillance footage from inside her son’s classroom.” At the time, Mendez was actually an employee at the daycare.
Upon review of the video, Mendez saw a teacher “spanking and handling her son in a rough manner.” During an interview with police, the teacher “told officers she handled the child roughly out of frustration.” Additionally, she noted that she “did not know the facility’s policy on discipline and had never received a handbook or any formal training, claiming she was “just thrown in a classroom.”
Mendez continued to look at the footage over the next few days and reached out to police again after she “observed several instances of possible child abuse.” When Crocket police looked at the footage, they saw daycare teachers “spanking and kicking children, handling them roughly, dragging them, slapping them on their head and hands, grabbing them by their ears and talking to them inappropriately.” On one occasion, a teacher even pulled the chair out from under a child, sending them to the floor.
From there, officers requested additional security footage from the daycare. Rice handed over “two stacks of DVDs and stated she could not offer any additional videos because the DVR hard drive had crashed…Rice gave officers the hard drive.” However, when the officers watched the footage on the DVDs, they found that they “only had surveillance footage of the exterior of the building and did not include any footage from inside the classrooms.”
A Texas Health and Human Services report from April 2020 about the daycare stated:
“Three caregivers at this facility were observed and admitted to utilizing prohibited punishment which included the following: striking with their hands on the children’s faces, arms, legs, and buttocks; twisting and pulling of the children’s ears; spanking the children on the buttocks; cursing at and in front of the children; yanking the children by their arms and clothes; slamming the children down on their nap mats; thumping the children in their heads.”
As a result, the three daycare employees were arrested and when a background check was conducted on one of the employees, it was discovered she “had a previous criminal record with a charge of assault and family violence.” Another employee also had “prior instances of criminal conduct as well.”
The report further stated:
“Ms. Rice stated she has installed a push-button intercom system at her facility since these investigations as well so she can check on her staff to make sure they aren’t overwhelmed, and her staff can notify the front desk if they need assistance with anything…The caregivers who were arrested were terminated and are no longer present at the operation in any capacity.”