Former Emporia State child education director, teacher charged in abuse investigation

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Photo: KVOE Photo: KVOE

The former director and a former teacher at Emporia State University's Center for Early Childhood Education have been charged following a lengthy investigation into alleged abuse.

The center's former director, Keely Persinger, was charged failing to report suspected abuse or neglect. Former teacher Kimberly Schneider faces five counts of child endangerment.

The center provides an early childhood environment for children of university students, faculty and community members. It also serves as a practicum and observation site for students training to be early childhood teachers.

The Lyon County attorney's office investigation followed a related investigation by the Kansas Department for Children and Families, KVOE reports. 

DCF reports showed number of alleged violations, including a 3-year-old unsupervised during a field trip to a swimming pool in June 2016. A child entered the bathroom without staff, left using the wrong door and walked across a parking lot to the center unattended. Two days later, the center allegedly allowed children to walk a mile to an unspecified activity with a 99-degree heat index.

DCF substantiated the complaints and filed an administrative order with the intent to assess a fine against the center.

Additional complaints, including refrigerator-freezer temperatures, lack of documentation for staff credentials, lack of immunization records, lack of records for fire or tornado drills and other concerns, were documented in 2014 and 2015.

Four families later filed suit against Emporia State and the center last August, alleging physical and emotional abuse of four preschool-aged children by Schneider. The suit alleges Schneider held the children's faces down on their nap cots until they cried themselves to sleep, forcibly held the children down, restrained the children to their seats with straps, demeaned the children and spoke to them in a derogatory fashion among other allegations.

The ongoing lawsuit also accuses Emporia State, the center and Persinger of negligence, negligent supervision and negligent retention.

Emporia State University declined comment.

Pretrial hearings were scheduled for June 18.

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