The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) pulled a $6.3 million federal grant from a Maryland county’s Head Start program Wednesday after allegations of child abuse and neglect went uncorrected.
Federal officials terminated the grant for the Prince George’s County Head Start program after the program failed to urgently reform various “deficiencies.” HHS alleges teachers, “humiliated children in the classroom, used corporal punishment as a method of discipline and left a child unattended.” This included an incident where a teacher forced a 3-year-old boy who wet himself during naptime to clean up the urine while the teacher filmed him and texted the child’s mother a photo with the caption, “LOL, he worked that mop tho,” reports WJLA.
The teacher left the 3-year-old in his dirty cloths while he cleaned, and even gave him a “behavior notice.” The mother reported the incident to family services.
“Serious reports were made regarding individuals – both working for the Head Start program and regularly volunteering for the larger school District – taking inappropriate pictures of children,” the report said of an incident from February. “A review of photographs and texts messages found pictures of children taken by staff members were used to humiliate and emotionally abuse children in the Head Start program.”
The incidents were documented in a review conducted Feb. 22, and given to the Prince George’s County Board of Education March 1. County officials had until April 11 to take corrective steps on each of the offenses. Upon finding at least one uncorrected “deficiency” and additional incidents as recently as June, HHS decided to pull the grant, reports WUSA9.
Another incident involved a 5-year-old girl who left a school building unattended and walked off the premises June 10. The child was later found alone outside her family’s apartment. The child reportedly left the nurse’s office and found her classroom empty. When she went back to the nurse’s office no one was there, so she left the building.
Officials with HHS said they are discussing their funding options and will continue the program in Prince George’s County, which serves 930 students.
“We are reviewing options with the Administration for Children & Families regarding Head Start,” the HHS report said. “The program will begin as planned on Monday, August 29. Our goal is for children and families to have uninterrupted access to the Head Start program and services.”
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