Four families have filed a civil lawsuit against Emporia State, the Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) and the former director and former teacher of CECE, alleging emotional and physical abuse of four children. The families are asking for an excess of $2.1 million in damages.
“Our investigation has revealed the children suffered multiple and separate instances of physical and emotional abuse at the Center,” said Peter Goss, an attorney at The Goss Law Firm, P.C., which is a Kansas City, Missouri based firm. “The children’s parents trusted Emporia State University, the Center for Early Childhood Education and their employees to protect and care for these children as their own. The Defendants clearly failed these children, the children’s families and the Emporia community.”
Goss, along with Eric Morrison, an attorney at the Overland Park based Morrison Law, LLC, represent the families.
Gwen Larson, assistant director of marketing and media relations, said that the university does not comment on pending lawsuits.
Kimberly Schneider, a former teacher at the center, and Keely Persinger, the former director and Schneider’s supervisor, were investigated by The Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF), according to Goss. The investigation substantiated the allegations of physical and emotional abuse and lack of supervision.
Goss, in a press release, stated that two teaching assistants reported suspected abuse to the DCF. They did so after first notifying Persinger, who did not make a timely report of the allegations, according to Goss.
In addition to the DCF investigation, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) carried out two surveys of the CECE. The surveys found instances of noncompliance that were in agreement with the allegations of the four families, according to Goss.
The suit was filed on August 17 in the Lyon County District Court. It alleges that Schneider, during her employment at the center, restrained the children by use of a strap, held the children’s faces down on their nap cots, yelled in their faces and spoke to them in a derogatory manner.
Persinger has also been accused negligence, negligent supervision and negligent retention, in addition to the claims against Schneider. These accusations were also filed against ESU and the CECE as a result of their actions or inactions protecting the children from abuse.
Schneider is no longer employed by ESU or the CECE. Her contract began in 2012, according to The Wichita Eagle’s government employee database.
Keely Persinger, the former director and Schneider’s supervisor, resigned before the DCF finished its investigation, said Goss.