A young Sanibel Island mom who discovered a day care worker had written her a note on the belly of her toddler in large, black letters is trying to decide whether to send her children back after receiving an apology.
The teacher who wrote the note also has been fired.
The director of the Children’s Education Center of the Islands on Sanibel Island said the message, written on the child Monday, was a breach of professional ethics and the teacher was fired.
“We are aware of the incident at the school, and we are terribly sorry for the distress it has caused the family involved as well as all of our families. It was a breach of our professional ethics on the part of the teacher,” said Cindy Carter DeCosta, executive director.
“The school has taken immediate action to remove the teacher from the school. We are reviewing protocols already in place to ensure that nothing like this occurs again.”
Despite DeCosta saying the school had met with the family and they were welcome to remain, the mother of the toddler had a different response.
“I’m so beyond frustrated,” Heather Chisum, 23, said earlier Tuesday. “I will no longer take them there.”
Milo is 18 months old, while her daughter, Finley, is 3′ years old.
By Tuesday afternoon, in the wake of the apology and firing, Chisum was rethinking her decision, mainly due to no other available child care for a toddler her son’s age.
Chisum posted photos of the writing on Milo’s torso on Facebook Monday night, asking other moms for their perspective.
A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families said the agency is looking into the incident.
Also investigating is the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers, which handles contracts for low-income and at-risk educational services involving organizations like the Sanibel center at issue.
“No way, no how is this appropriate,” said Susan Block, CEO of the coalition.
“Our staff will investigate,” she said. “I suspect in any group of individuals you’ll get one bad actor. That’s what we will investigate for assurances that it won’t happen again.”
Chisum said she had no idea her Facebook post would blow-up to garner upwards of 26,000 shares by Tuesday afternoon.
“I thought just a few friends, mothers, would comment,” she said.
Now, she said, she will take off work for the rest of the week to find a replacement day care for her two children.
“There’s no other place on the island for someone as young as he is,” she said.
Sanibel Island is a sunny vacation spot on the Gulf of Mexico with homes costing millions and workers, often in the service industry live, at subsidized rental properties.
The thousands of Facebook responses did come from mothers and others online who mostly expressed outraged.
Chisum said that the day care her son and daughter attend had placed a memo earlier in his belongings telling her that he needed more diapers.
“I guess yesterday they wrote on his report that he needs diapers, and I failed to see that. Now keep in mind, I see several teachers at drop off and several at pick up, if I failed to see that he needs diapers a simple, ‘Hey Heather, your son needs diapers maybe you missed the report’ would have done the trick. From any of the many teachers there I see daily,” she posted on Facebook Monday.
When she got her son and his sister home Monday, she found a message in what looked like felt-tipped marker scrawled across the blond-haired boy’s torso.
“But instead, I change his diaper this afternoon AND SEE THIS WRITTEN ON MY SON WITH MARKER. You can’t even see all of it in the pic.. it says, ‘Mom I’m out of diapers pls read my report’. I’ve scrubbed it with several baby wipes and it’s not coming off …,” she said on the social media site. ” In the very worst case scenario, I can’t see anything other than ‘need diapers’ needing to be written. Why a big long message needed to be written across my sons stomach is beyond me.”
Karli Ezell, of Buckingham, who said she was a friend of Chisum, said the 23-year-old is raising two children by herself.
“To hear of anyone having to deal with something like this is just horrible. Being a young parent is hard enough but to think that we try so hard to ensure our kids are safe with these people while we are at work then something like this happens, it’s a gut-wrenching feeling,” Ezell said.
Comments on Chisum’s Facebook post were overwhelmingly in support of Chisum:
Allie Anderson To lift his shirt up & mark him & underline it… omg I’d be in prison
Kayla Bowling By no means are you over reacting! Any day care usually always keeps extra diapers, you missed one day of not bringing diapers and it should not be a big deal. I would do more than just posting this on FB because this is not okay. That poor precious babe!!
As the news spread, others on Facebook weren’t as supportive:
Jules Pebbs All you lot freaking out demanding she sue …. Mayyybe she should also have taken notice if how many diapers she had taken… Made sure to read the reports as a priority.
While Chisum was mostly happy with the care, during the day care’s last 14 inspections, dating to May 2017, the Children’s Education Center of the Islands has been cited six times for being out of compliance with some Florida Department of Children and Families requirements. The day care was mostly cited for not meeting training and paperwork requirements.
The only citation directly involving a child was in June 2019. DCF cited the day care for not appropriately supervising nap time after an inspector found a 1-year-old child sleeping alone with the door closed.
All violations were immediately corrected.
A spokesman for the Sanibel Police Department said no report had been filed about the latest incident.
School director DeCosta said the school would focus on the future.
“We are proud of our school, love our students, and are eager to make our school a better place as we move forward.”
Connect with breaking news reporter Michael Braun: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook), @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally published to news-press.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.
(c)2020 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Visit The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) at www.jacksonville.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.