MSDH fines local day care

Published 12:00 pm Friday, January 15, 2016

After a child spilled milk and cried for more, the day care teacher stepped into the kitchen to get another cup of milk.

It was at that moment an inspector with the Mississippi State Department of Health walked into the classroom at Little Angels Day Care on University Avenue.

According to the paperwork, the day care was fined $400 for allowing children to be left unattended and it was issued on Dec. 22 to owner Aleciean Mathis.

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The day care has been in business for 15 years and this is the center’s first fine from the state.

According to the health department, the fine was for “children left unattended,” and “failure to maintain the minimum staff to child ratio,” however there is no mention of a lack of staff-to-child in the paperwork left with Mathis.

“There’s nothing in here that says we don’t have enough staff,” Mathis said Thursday in an interview with the EAGLE. “We have eight people working, two for each classroom. We do not have a shortage of staff.”

The distance from where the children sit for lunch and the refrigerator is about 6 feet. There is a door that leads into the little kitchen area that is in the same room as the classroom but it was open.

“The inspector just happened to walk into the classroom when the teacher was 5 feet away getting some milk,” Mathis said.

Mathis said she intends to fight the $400 fine. The fine is actually $50 per child in the room at the time of the alleged infraction. There were eight children in the classroom.

Most hadn’t heard about the incident until the health department sent out an email recently listing all the day care facilities that were given violations during the recent round of inspections. Detailed copies of the inspection are available by contacting the health department and filing a public records request.

The news ran on a local television station and Mathis started receiving calls from parents. They were mad — but they weren’t mad at her.

“They asked what happened and when they found out, they were irate that we were fined for this,” Mathis said.

On Thursday, about 20 parents remained at the day care when they came to pick up their child when they heard the EAGLE would be there to interview Mathis so they could show their support for Little Angels. Even Mini Cooper, owner of Kid’s College Day Care in Abbeville, attended the meeting to show her support.

“(Mathis) does a great job with this center, and to make it seem like our kids are left alone is ridiculous,” said Rachel Vonlandingham, who has one child at the day care.

Diana Carter said having the violation aired on television is embarrassing for the parents and for Mathis.

“She has a business to run,” Carter said. “It seems like this woman is trying to sabotage her business.”

Bob King has a great-grandchild at the day care center and is happy with the care they have received.

“I’ve never seen more loving teachers,” he said.