MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) - The Louisiana Department of Education Thursday revoked the license of Kidzone, an early learning center in Mandeville and terminated its public funding after a toddler escaped the preschool's play yard and wandered into traffic, according to a a spokesperson.
The Dept. of Education says staff at the school failed to report the incident to the Department's Division of Licensing and did not provide the child's parent with details.
"It's fortunate this young child is safe, but that doesn't change the fact this early learning center failed in its responsibility to care for its students," said State Superintendent John White. "We cannot tolerate such negligence, nor can we allow child care facilities like this one to operate in Louisiana."
The Department inspected Kidzone Preschool on March 17 after receiving a complaint from a driver who said he was forced to slam on his vehicle's brakes to avoid hitting a three-year-old child who was running in the street, headed toward the main highway, about three blocks away from the preschool facility.
The driver stopped, and while his passenger directed passing traffic, he picked up the child and waited to see if anyone from the nearby businesses would appear to claim the child. When no one did, they approached the preschool and asked if a child was missing. Until that moment, staff had not noticed the child was gone.
The preschool did not report the incident, and when a site visit was conducted by a licensing specialist, the director initially acted as if she knew nothing about it. After further discussion, the director suggested there had been an occurrence, but at no point did she acknowledge a child had been missing. In fact, she said she did not realize she had to report it because the child was not "lost."
While the licensing specialist was still on site, the child's mother arrived to pick him up. The specialist interviewed the mother, and it became clear the center had not provided her with all the details of the critical incident.
This center is now ineligible for public funding through the Child Care Assistance Program, which helps make child care more affordable for low-income families. The Department has alerted families affected by this action and is working closely with them to identify safe, quality alternative options.
Kidzone Preschool has 15 calendar days from receipt of the notice of revocation to appeal the Department's decision. Providers who have had their licenses revoked are ineligible to apply for licensure for two years.