SC daycare workers arrested, charged with running fight ring involving young kids

Two South Carolina daycare workers were reportedly arrested this Thursday for encouraging their underage charges to physically fight one another.

“Ericka Sherai’ Jones and Serena Caldwell, who were both employees at the Kids Unlimited of Prosperity daycare, turned themselves in Thursday at the Newberry County Detention Center after allegations emerged the pair allowed and even encouraged children to be violent each,” The State reported Saturday.

“Caldwell, 56, was charged with 15 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor unlawful conduct toward a child. Jones, 27, was charged with 14 counts of the same offense,” the Columbia, South Carolina paper added.

Jones and Caldwell ordered the kids at the daycare to slap, push, shove, and hit one another as a “means of punishment or to entice them to follow rules,” Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said to local media.

“It was a situation where they were participating in it by encouraging the kids, and they kind of looked at it as something maybe almost equivalent to a sporting event where they were kind of trying to motivate the kids into participating in that,” he added.

In addition to encouraging the children to fight, Caldwell also allegedly struck one of the kids with a box of baby wipes while Jones watched and recorded.

The only good news is that Jones and Caldwell were “rogue employees,” according to Foster, and when the daycare learned of the abuse from a parent whose child had been asked to hit another kid, the two were immediately fired and the Sheriff’s Office alerted.

“The daycare did exactly what the law says and maybe more, they went above board. When they found out about it, they didn’t intend to take care of this on their own,” Foster said, according to local station WIS.

During a subsequent investigation, the affected children — 14 total, all aged three through four — revealed everything to the cops.

“It first started out by, with them saying the teachers had promoted other students, or other clients of the daycare, to use violence to try to punish a child or make another child compliant,” Foster said, as reported by fellow local station WLTX.

One of the victims’ parents later testified in court that their child was ordered to hit another kid and then to hit that kid again.

None of the kids sustained any major physical injuries, Foster said, though he also stressed that the damage has already been done.

“We don’t know at this time how much emotional or psychological damage could have been caused by this,” he said.

“What were you thinking? I have no idea who would think that that was any way appropriate to encourage three and four-year-old children to participate in violent acts, regardless of what they thought it would do,” he added.

“We’ve had daycare workers that have assaulted children, and daycare workers that may have taken punishment a bit too far, but nothing like this. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” he continued.

At least one parent told WIS they don’t believe the bad behavior by the two “rogue employees” is indicative of how the daycare usually functions.

“I hate that these two women kind of tarnished the name of this daycare. But at the same time, I’m glad that it was caught and they will have to serve justice. But at the end of the day, there’s no real justice because how do you remove that from a child’s head? You’ve altered their life,” the parent said.

In a statement, the daycare’s owner, John David Dawkins, defended how the center had responded to Jones and Caldwell’s bad behavior.

“It was brought to the attention of our senior staff members that possible offensive behavior by two staff members may have occurred. After viewing security camera footage the two staff members were immediately terminated,” he said.

“South Carolina Dept. of Social Services and The Newberry County Sheriff’s Dept. were also immediately notified. Any further comments about the investigation will be coming from those two agencies,” he added.

According to The State, the daycare has a “B” rating from the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

“An Oct. 25 inspection arising from a complaint noted four ‘high severity’ deficiencies. The center was not providing ‘positive and non-abusive discipline practice’ or ‘adequate supervision’ throughout the facility. The center was also dinged for ‘ratios adequate in all classrooms and on the playground’ and ‘proper diaper changing practices,'” the paper notes.


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