By Zachary Daum
In January the Laugh and Learn Preschool and Child Care Center underwent an investigation by the DCFS, after concerns by a parent at the center were brought forward. Although the DCFS concluded that the complaint was unfounded, according to the DCFS Sunshine Illinois Accountability Project website, this investigation is the fourth in a line of investigations dating back to April. Each complaint was related to the same administrative code, “Section 407.200,” dealing with program requirements. These investigations were conducted between April 13, 2022 to May 25, 2022, June 27, 2022 to July 27, 2022, October 19, 2022 to November 3, 2022 and November 28, 2022 to January 6, 2023.
One parent, Jessica Willmont who initiated the most recent complaint to DCFS came forward for an interview, expressing her original concerns and she believes that her concerns have still not been addressed. “Things were kind of great the first few months and then we started having incidents’s with our oldest son, who is four. Just weird things where he was constantly getting hurt. His normal teachers who were amazing ended up both on maternity leave and we ended up with a different teacher. Our son just didn’t seem to like being dropped off with her. We figured at first he’s just a difficult 2 year old, throwing fits. One morning I drop him off and he starts throwing the worst tantrum he’s ever thrown (when I was dropping him off.) I walk down the hallway to leave and I hear his teacher screaming, telling him to not open the door. He opened the door and stopped in his tracks when he saw me and the teacher grabbed him by the neck of his shirt and pulled him back into the classroom with such force that she literally pulled him up off of his feet. Obviously, he was extremely upset. Mama Bear kicked in, so I go running to him and I go to the office. I explained to the director that, ‘Hey, this is what just happened. You need to investigate this, you need to look at the cameras, you need to do something about this.’ Of course, there’s no way I could find any new daycare right then and there that day. So their dad and I asked if our son could be moved to a different room.”
After two weeks, she discovered that her child had been moved back to the room of the teacher she requested her child not be with and at that point she pulled her children out of the day care. “At that point, I had already called DCFS. They came in and did about a two month investigation. Due to cameras not working and angle of cameras, they could not prove anything. Unfortunately our whole incident was (labeled as) unfounded. Another mother reached out to me (and explained) her child ended up with marks on her body and areas that it would just kind of be impossible for those to be there without someone physically harming them. Come to find out, that child was in the exact same care of the teacher who hurt our child.”
One mother of a child at the center who asked to remain anonymous reported that some of the cameras had not worked for over 6 years and they had made no moves to repair them.
Laugh and Learn Preschool Lawyer Philip Speicher made a statement on behalf of the center, explaining what happened as a result of the most recent investigation. “There was a DCFS investigation started in response to her complaint and through DCFS the complaint was decided to be unfounded. DCFS concluded that the details in the complaint were unsubstantiated. There was insufficient evidence to support her allegations.”
The DCFS was unable to provide Freedom of Information Act requests by Herald Publications on the details of these investigations for 3 weeks leading up to the publication date of this story.