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Daycare teachers belittled and humiliated children, state investigation finds

A secret audio recording revealed teachers threatening students with physical punishment.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the timing of the improvement plan submitted by the school.

ROSWELL, Ga. -- A local daycare is promising changes after a state investigation that concluded last year found teachers belittled, humiliated and threatened 2 and 3-year-old children. 

According to an investigation by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), the alleged abuse happened on July 25 and Aug. 8 in 2018 at the Goddard School of Roswell.

Brian Connerat's child, then just 2 years old, was a student at the school.

"(My son) looked down at the ground, then looks at me and says, 'Daddy, they hit me," Connerat said, referring to his son's teachers. "I said 'why did they hit you?' And he said 'because I cried'."

Connerat took a secret audio recorder and placed it in his son's classroom.

The recordings, according to the investigation, included staff members laughing at a crying child, speaking ill of parents in the presence of a child, and ignoring a child who was "emotionally upset."

The Goddard School fired the teachers in question. The state fined the school as a result of the investigation.

"Our children were starting to become terrified of going to school," Connerat said. "They were depressed."

In documents from DECAL, some parents noted that their children began exhibiting aggressive behavior, including hitting them on the arm. Another child also began telling his parents he did not want to go to school because his friends were being hit by staff.

The school has since responded to the incident, saying:

"For more than 15 years, the Goddard School of Roswell has provided exceptional childcare for families and our number one priority has always been to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children. Over a year ago, an incident involving one classroom was brought to our attention and we immediately investigated and took action, including proactively reporting the matter to the state, taking voluntary, concrete steps to ensure that the incident does not occur again, and fully cooperating with the state in its investigation."

In the wake of the investigation, DECAL demanded the school submit a plan for improvement by Oct. 9, 2018, which the school submitted before the deadline. In a follow-up letter, DECAL noted that the school hired new teachers, met with parents individually and installed surveillance cameras.

"It's being downplayed. It's being minimized," Connerat said. "If the owners weren't aware that this was happening, then that's a big problem. Because they weren't monitoring the classrooms. They weren't aware that the teachers were doing this kind of thing to the children."

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