DOVER, Del. (AP) - Three Delaware day care workers videotaped a fight between 3-year-old boys in their care and encouraged the toddlers to pummel each other as they laughed about it, according to court documents.
The three women were charged Monday with assault and other offenses after Dover police obtained a cellphone video of the March 6 incident. Officials suspended the license of their employer, Hands of Our Future day care center in Dover, the same day.
Tiana Harris, 19, of Dover, Estefania Myers, 21, of Felton, and Lisa Parker, 47, of Dover each posted $10,000 secured bond. Each is charged with felony assault and conspiracy, and several misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The women allowed and encouraged two 3-year-old boys to fight each other, according to a probable cause affidavit. Police allege the video taken by Harris shows one child screaming, crying and holding his face while being punched by the other, who is also punched and shoved into a table.
During the fight, Parker allegedly grabbed one of the boys and forced him to continue. Harris and Myers, meanwhile, are shown and heard laughing and encouraging the altercation, police said.
"They're doing nothing to prevent this from happening," Dover Police Capt. Tim Stump said, adding the video makes clear that one of the boys does not want to continue.
"He's crying, he doesn't want any part of continuing, and he rushes to one of the defendants and is turned around and shoved back into the fray," Stump said.
Police held a closed-door meeting Monday night with parents and guardians of children attending the day care.
"They're obviously very concerned," Stump said, adding police are trying to determine whether there were other instances of fighting encouraged by day care employees.
"This investigation is far from over," he said.
Police have refused to release the video, saying it is evidence in a continuing criminal investigation.
Cristyl Slack, whose 4-year-old daughter is one of seven children who can be seen in the background on the cellphone video, said she is shocked by the allegations. Slack said her daughter has told her repeatedly that the teachers don't condone fighting.
"She's specifically said that the day care teachers have told her, if somebody hits her, don't hit them back," Slack said.
Slack said she has not seen the video, and police have advised parents not to press their children about what happened. Police have indicated they will allow parents of children who can be seen in the video to view it at some point, but have not said when, Slack added.
Slack could not recall her daughter complaining of anything at the time of the March incident.
Slack said she transferred her children to Hands of our Future early last year after Teresa Perez opened the business. Slack's children had previously been at another center where Perez, Myers, Parker and Harris worked.
"I can't imagine her ever hurting a child," Slack said of Myers. "I trust her with my kid's life."