Representatives of Pleasanton's Centerpointe Presbyterian Church met behind closed doors with parents of children enrolled in its independently-operated Christian preschool last night to incidents that led to possible child abuse charges at the school.
The Rev. Mike Barris, church pastor, said that while the date of the incident remains unclear, it came to his attention March 4 that a former teacher at the preschool had shown others a cell phone photo of a 2-year-old she had restrained with tape because the child refused to take a nap.
The teacher showed the photo to those attending a social gathering March 1 for current and former preschool staff. One of those attending the gathering who saw the photo is the parent of the child involved.
When the child refused the nap, the teacher taped up the child's ankles and wrists. The masking tape was taken off and no allegation of any physical harm has been made.
Church leaders say they do not know when the photo was taken.
"We are appalled and shocked that such an incident, if proven to be true, took place," Pastor Barris said.
"Every human person made in the image of God, all of the children in our care, deserve the highest degree of respect and protection from any action that dehumanizes them," he added.
The parent reported the incident to the Pleasanton Police Department and investigators have interviewed church staff. A church spokesman said the church is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation and the legal outcome is unknown.
Upon receipt and confirmation of the information, the church also notified Community Care Licensing, which issued a Class A violation last Thursday. The church also has been notifying parents as required by the licensing agency.
"We want to be very clear that no currently employed staff were involved in this incident," the spokesman said. "The former preschool director had no knowledge of this event until we informed him after we were notified."
There have been four prior Class A violations at the Centerpointe school. Two involved improper storage of bleach and two involved supervision of children issues in two classrooms. Corrective action was taken in each instance and staff received additional training.
Following disclosure of the latest violation, Centerpointe church leaders, known as "elders," have sent a detailed letter to all of the pre-school parents and last night met with a number of those parents directly. They also ordered the temporary suspension of preschool operations until next Wednesday, March 20, while authorities conduct their investigation into the incident.
"We will use our resources as well as outside experts to analyze our program and procedures so we return to the excellent program and quality care of children that Centerpointe Christian Preschool has become known for," a church spokesman said.
Until last October, Centerpointe had never received a notice of Class A violation from the licensing agency in its five years of operation on the current campus, the spokesman said. Before opening Centerpointe at its new location at Valley Avenue and Busch Road, the church operated a co-op preschool for decades on its former Mirador Avenue site.
The church elders' statement to the congregation and parents read:
"… we will not continue to operate a preschool that is less than God's best for the children we serve. While the staff involved in these situations is no longer employed here, there is more work to be done to create a new educational environment that is safe, loving and enriching for your children."
"We know we have a great team of committed teachers who are serving your children with everything they have," the statement continued. "We know in our hearts that the vision, values and commitment to excellence in early childhood education that we stand for are good and right. We continue to have a passionate desire to deliver to you, the parents and children we serve, the kind of preschool experience that reflects God's love and our committed care for your special, one-of-a-kind children."