St. Louis daycare ‘fight club’ caught on camera

FOX Files
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. LOUIS – Teachers at Adventure Learning Center on Gravois organized a one-day fight club for preschoolers in December 2016. The lead teacher organized it after the heater broke in an attempt to entertain the kids.

State regulators increased inspections after the incident. Follow up visits found other types of violations.

A 10-year-old captured video of the fighting with his iPad. He was with older kids in the next room. He was worried about his little brother who was crying after three fights.

In the video, you can see one teacher who appears excited as she’s jumping up and down. You can see another teacher putting hulk fists on preschoolers.

Mother Nicole Merseal cannot watch without crying. She told us, “He doesn`t understand why his friends were fighting him — why he was beaten up by his best friends. And it was on his 4th birthday.”

The iPad video shows a fight in which the kids fall to the ground while a teacher kicks into the air in excitement. The only person who tries breaking it up is another preschooler, but he cannot stop one child from pounding the other`s head into the floor. Merseal believes it only stopped because her older son texted her video. She called the director to stop it. She said her older son texted the video saying… “The daycare was making them fight, not helping them.”

Daycare cameras recorded at least 30 minutes, fight after fight – video Merseal says can be monitored by staff.

Though it happened nearly two years ago, Merseal doesn`t think enough was done. She said, “I want them to be held accountable and I don`t want this to happen to any other child.”

The police report says the director immediately fired both teachers and called the child abuse hotline. The St. Louis Circuit Attorney`s Office declined to prosecute.

I reached out to both teachers. They had no comment.

Though state regulators substantiated the complaint, Adventure Learning Center Gravois continued operating normally, but with increased inspections. Eight visits since, document 26 wide-ranging violations – though none exactly like the fight club incident.

In March 2018, ‘a 4-year-old child’ said a teacher ‘cussed at him, flicked him, grabbed him and pushed him to the ground.’

Also, in March – an ‘agency staff member observed a caregiver…grab a child approximately 3- years-old by the arm and drag/carry the child.’ the report adds that the ‘(director) was standing in this classroom and did not respond…’

Merseal wonders about training. She pointed to how a teacher noticed her son crying that December day in 2016. She said, “In the video, he`s wiping his face over and over again. The daycare worker – you see her walk over to him and tell him, you know – you`re fine and you know – pat him on the back and then walk and start another fight with other kids.”

She says now she struggles making her son realize fighting at daycare is not widely accepted. Merseal said, “When we chose a new daycare for him and he started going he asked me in the car if they were going to make him fight.”

No one from Adventure Learning Center Gravois would comment.

The St Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office provided the following statement about declining to prosecute the teachers, “There was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any laws were violated. However, that does not diminish the incredibly poor judgment by these adults who had the responsibility to safely supervise these children.”

You can check out your childcare facilities inspection history by visiting the MO DHSS search portal here.

You can not only check child care centers but also group homes. Just type the name of the facility and hit “search.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

About the FOX Files

The Fox Files are groundbreaking investigations you won’t see anywhere else. The series is well known for breaking the Pam Hupp story nationally. The reports that led to the exoneration of Russ Faria. But, it is far from the only time in which our investigations led to overturned convictions and freedom for the wrongfully accused. The Fox Files investigations do not fit into just one category, other than the fact our reports shine a light on issues and corruption in ways you won’t see anywhere else.

You won’t know what to expect as our reports often take twists that surprise even Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes.

“You never know where the truth will lead and you have to keep searching for it, even when you think you might be done,” Hayes said.

From getting arrested for trying to cover a public meeting, to getting law enforcement involved in his report about a daycare fight club, the Fox Files has been at the forefront of breaking news investigations in the St. Louis area.

It doesn’t stop just in St. Louis. The Pam Hupp/Russ Faria story took him to Lincoln County. Fox 2 was the first to report, nationally, on the synthetic drug epidemic when it began in St. Charles County, MO. In St. Louis County, our Fox Files reporting led to the dismantling of some police departments, including the departments of Uplands Park and Jennings. And in the City of St. Louis, our investigations led to swift government actions, such as our report that led to the Governor’s ordered shut down of a daycare.

Our reporting in St. Louis also led to former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ exclusive Fox Files interviews involving his court fight to oust the chief prosecutor while attempting to prove that political corruption led to an illegal overturning of a state election.

“It’s not always bad news,” Hayes said about a recent victory for a restaurant in his coverage of a St. Clair County Illinois issue. A Fox Files report, exposing a health department’s mistake over the COVID-19 pandemic, led to an overturning of a decision, allowing the business to open for limited inside dining.

Another investigation took us to Madison County, where prosecutors praised Fox 2’s coverage while shutting down an illegal synthetic drug business – and to Monroe County, where we uncovered key evidence in the Chris Coleman murder trial.

Even the national media, continues reaching out to local affiliate Fox 2 KTVI and the Fox Files, for its work on cases that are important to St. Louis. When you see a network television’s coverage of St. Louis, you’ll often see that they gathered information that was first uncovered right here.

About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.

Popular

Latest News

More News