Parents sue Chicago day care center, alleging children were abused – Chicago Tribune
The parents of a 3-year-old boy allegedly assaulted by his preschool teacher are suing the Chicago branch of the local day care chain, alleging a pattern of abuse condoned by its owner and staff.
According to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, the parents of the child — who filed the suit as John and Jane Doe — enrolled him at the Belmont Avenue branch of Children’s Land in August after staff assured them and the school’s handbook assured them they did not use corporal punishment or even timeouts on their charges under any circumstances.
But within a week, the boy’s mother noticed finger-shaped bruises on her child’s hip. The next two days, her son begged not to be dropped off and then told his mother he’d been slapped on the leg and put in timeout after expressing that he missed his mother, the lawsuit says.
The mother confronted her son’s teacher, Svitlana Dovhopiata, who allegedly told her she had been stressed because she was watching 18 3-year-olds the day before, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that is a violation of state law governing day care centers. In Illinois, the student-to-teacher ratio for children that age is 10 children for every teacher, the suit states. Dovhopiata also is being sued.
The mother then asked to see classroom video from the previous day and saw Dovhopiata “clearly struck another boy hard three times,” the lawsuit says. A supervisor, who is not being sued, allegedly told the boy’s mother that striking the boy is the only way to control him and that his parents were aware of it.
Later in the video, Dovhopiata is seen “violently spanking” another child in her class, the lawsuit says. She is also seen “violently” rocking the plaintiff’s son in his cot before dragging him by the wrist to the bathroom, then appeared to hit him as she forced him back into the cot, the lawsuit says. “(The boy) then put his head into his hands and appeared to be in tears,” the lawsuit says.
Even after viewing the video, supervisors at the school did not remove Dovhopiata, but only put together an “action plan” to address the abuse, the lawsuit alleges. The boy’s parents immediately withdrew him from Children’s Land.
Later that month, police charged Dovhopiata, 29, with two counts of misdemeanor battery against two boys at the school, court records show. The charging documents allege that she “forcefully struck” one of the 3-year-old boys in his midsection and “forcefully” picked up the plaintiff’s son by his arms and “then tossed him roughly back down on” his cot.
A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said the agency is investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect at the daycare center but could not provide any further details.
The lawsuit against Children’s Land and Dovhopiata and the chain’s co-owner Oxana Anisimov alleges multiple counts of battery, assault, negligence and fraud and seeks more than $50,000 in damages.
George Tychalski, who owns the day care centers with spouse Anisimov and runs the Belmont location, said there was a “small incident” but that hundreds of families still trust them to care for their children. After it happened, Dovhopiata resigned, he said, but he believes all the misdemeanor charges will be dropped.
“There was a small incident that became a big problem for the teacher and for us,” he said. “There was an incident but it was isolated.
“We have nothing to hide,” he said, noting that all classrooms have three cameras and parents are welcome to watch what goes on in their students’ classrooms anytime on a large monitor in the day care center’s hallway.
Children’s Land, which has five locations in the northern suburbs and Chicago, got its start in Glenview at the former site of a day care center where a 16-month-old boy died after allegedly suffering a fractured skull in 2009. Day care worker Melissa Calusinski was convicted of the toddler’s murder, a high-profile verdict that was upheld on appeal. The chain is unaffiliated with the prior child care center, a Children’s Land spokeswoman has said.
Another set of parents removed their daughter from the Wheeling branch of the chain and filed a complaint with DCFS after finding a bruise in the shape of an adult hand on their daughter’s neck, the lawsuit alleges. The chain also settled for $50,000 a lawsuit filed by a family whose infant daughter suffered vaginal cuts while at the Glenview location, the lawsuit says.