A California church preschool was shut down by the state in December after several visits from state regulators that took issue with staffer’s inability to keep children over the age of two masked among other alleged violations.
Parents protested the closure of Foothills Christian Church Preschool in El Cajon earlier this month after the California Dept. of Social Services Community Care Licensing shut the facility’s doors on December 10.
Preschool director Tiffany McHugh said that the Department of Social Services began visiting the preschool in September after reportedly receiving a parent complaint, according to CBS 8.
“From that point on we were working with licensing almost on a weekly basis over the next two months and we were trying to improve,” McHugh explained. “Unfortunately, it’s really hard. We are going up against a lot of parents that don’t want their children to be masked.”
McHugh has now been suspended from working with children over the alleged violations.
The preschool worked with the regulators and were cleared in November, but a few weeks later when state workers came back for a routine visit they found unmasked toddlers once again.
“We were going to continue working on it but three days later they came in and shut us down,” McHugh said.
Church leaders, however, claim they were targeted and harassed in a discriminatory manner.
“Our church used to have a great preschool here,” said David Hoffman, who senior pastors the church, as reported by The Christian Post. “We had over 100 students, and we had a waiting list … so large that we were in the process of expanding our preschool.”
“Several months ago, this church, this preschool became a target by the Department of Social Services. Basically, what it boils down to is they were not happy with how many of our children did not have masks on,” he said. “They came here, they visited. They found a few other violations, which our director rectified in 24 hours. But the state kept coming back, 11 times. … Seven of those times were from 9 a.m. in the morning to 6 p.m. that night.”
Hoffman said that some of the students were interviewed without parental consent, and that the state seemed to point to trumped-up allegations of improper protocol.
“What were they doing all that time?” he asked. “Looking through our files. … They are looking at these files over and over and over again to try to find any violation they could. … It’s harassment, its intimidation.”
“They couldn’t really find anything wrong except that not enough kids had masks on,” he explained. “I want to read this to you: ‘There were disinfectants, cleaning solutions, poisons and other items that posed a danger to children.’ I defy anybody to go into this building right now and find poisons.”
“All she kept saying to me over and over again is that this shutdown is because ‘we are concerned about the health and safety of these children,’” he explained. “Now you have all these families that don’t have anywhere to take their kids.”
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