My Kids Attend Cranford's 'Fight Club' Daycare
Teachers at a Cranford preschool allegedly had their students compete in a 'fight club.' One parent shares her story.
I stared at my phone when the urgent email came in from my kids’ daycare. Two teachers had been fired for allegedly encouraging preschool children to push and shove each other on the playground to settle a disagreement. Local prosecutors were investigating. My head started to spin.
A “fight club” at our school, Lightbridge Academy in Cranford? How could this be happening at the homey, nurturing place that looks after our 3-year-old daughter and almost 2-year-old son, a place with teachers and staff we’d grown to rely on, trust and love?
Worse still, the two teachers involved were set to be my daughter’s teachers this fall. Those women have now been charged with fourth-degree child abuse, among other offenses. Child abuse.
The alleged instigator—assistant teacher Erica Kenny—is just 22 and a mom herself with a little girl in my son’s class. “Miss Erica” is said to have videotaped the fights, sharing the clips via Snapchat and calling the whole thing a fight club as she recorded it. The other assistant teacher, 28-year-old Chanese White (“Miss Chanese”), had just celebrated her 10th anniversary at the school, I learned as I scoured the center’s Facebook page.
I am horrified and heartbroken. Worried about the children involved—the prosecutor’s office said about dozen kids 4 to 6 years old could be seen shoving each other to the ground and trying to hit each other (though none were seriously hurt, apparently). Sheepishly thankful this happened before my daughter was part of the class. Full of sympathy for the parents whose babies were treated so terribly, and for the other wonderful teachers and employees at the school who did nothing wrong.
I am also utterly baffled as to how those two young women—whom I don’t know—could have done something so appalling if the allegations against them are true. And I am sad about the forced resignation of the daycare’s director, who had been so good to our family, after seven years on the job.
All the while, I have continued to send my kids to Lightbridge. Do I worry about their safety? Of course … always. But here’s the thing: Has there ever been a safer time for them to be there now that this has all been revealed? My children are comfortable and happy in their little school. And we’ve been thrilled with the education and care they’ve been getting. So I’m keeping them enrolled. Yes, I could yank them out, or be wracked by anger and fear every minute of the day—and believe me, I have considered all those reactions. But in the end, we decided to let them stay based on the positive experiences my kids have had so far—two bad apples and all that. It’s the right call for us.
My son is still too young to understand. But how was I going to explain the upheaval to my whip-smart daughter? I decided to keep it simple and not say too much.
“Sweetie,” I said to her a few days after the fervor began. “You won’t be having the teachers we thought you were going to have anymore in your new class.”
Her big, blue eyes widened. “Why not?” she asked.
“Because they don’t work there anymore. You’ll have other great teachers instead.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Well, a couple of them weren’t being nice, so they had to leave,” I explained gingerly. “But it’s okay now. You’ll have so much fun this year in school. You’re such a big girl!”
She seemed reassured by that explanation, so we left it at that.