Fort Worth parents allege toddler son neglected at school, call for better child care

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A Fort Worth couple is calling attention to what they say is a lack of accountability within the child care system after their son was sent home multiple times from a local program with soiled diapers and clothes, which was followed by defensive and retaliatory behavior by leadership when the parents sought to solve the problem.

Jordan and Josiah Lyle removed their almost-3-year-old son, Beckham, from the Montessori School on Camp Bowie almost two weeks ago after they said they no longer felt that he was in a safe environment when their attempts to fix issues with his child care had been dismissed. The Lyles defined their son’s care as neglectful and, as a result, have filed a report with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which investigates abuse and neglect in child care facilities.

Issues related to Beckham’s sanitary care spanned from November through February, and the Lyles say they want to bring awareness to other families of not just their son’s treatment, but the limited consequences that a child care facility accused of neglect may or may not face.

The Montessori School’s director, Rachel Parkerson, said that the Lyles’ claims are under review through a pending investigation, which was confirmed by state officials to the Star-Telegram. Parkerson also noted that the program has been awarded by 76107 Magazine for best child care every year since 2020.

“The Montessori School on Camp Bowie will continue to provide exemplary care and education to our loving Fort Worth community,” Parkerson said in a statement.

The facility located on Ashland Avenue serves children from 18 months old to 6 years old and provides after-care for students from 2:15-6 p.m. that consists of “more relaxed time” where children can nap, socialize or spend time outdoors, according to its website. The Lyles said they were satisfied with their son’s curriculum time in the morning and early afternoon, and the teacher who provided it, but issues appeared to present themselves when Beckham was turned over to different caregivers for after-care.

The first alarm bell was rung in November when Beckham was sent home with an “inexcusably full diaper” that was “bulging on both ends,” the boy’s mother, Jordan Lyle, said.

“It was alarming to us. Clearly, he hadn’t been checked in hours,” she added.

Beckham was potty trained over Thanksgiving break but was supposed to be changed into a diaper just during nap time when he returned to school, according to the Lyles. In December, a second but more severe instance was noticed immediately by Josiah Lyle when he smelled feces on his son and felt “squishiness” near his ankle, he said.

“When I started to roll up his pant leg, there was poop just kind of dried into his pant leg and smeared down his leg,” Josiah Lyle said. “When I picked him up, he was the only kid left at school… and it was just him and a teacher in the main administration room.”

When the Lyles reported this incident, there initially seemed to be action taken with a plan to log when Beckham was being checked or changed on a daily basis, but the reports were only issued a handful of times, the parents said. When the Lyles voiced that these logs were no longer being passed along and inquired about them, administrators were “super defensive” and stated the Lyles “were not trusting them,” the couple said.

According to Josiah Lyle, there seemed to be a focus more on the status of Beckham’s potty training at home rather than the larger issue at hand.

“I was like, ‘That’s not really the point here. The point is, you guys need to be aware of when a child has an accident, not whether a child has an accident.’ Potty training takes a long time,” Josiah Lyle said. “That was pretty upsetting and pretty concerning.”

In February, for at least the third time, Beckham was sent home again with a dirty diaper, which the Lyles infer that he had been wearing since nap time in the early afternoon through 6 p.m. at pickup time. His parents then pulled him from after-care and he only attended the main curriculum during the day.

The Lyles still wanted to find a solution, as Beckham had built friendships with his classmates and enjoyed his time with his primary teacher, they said. When they asked about enrolling him for the summer and fall and inquired about whether any changes had been made for teacher training or checks and balances in the after-care program, Parkerson responded saying there would be no spot for Beckham at the school starting this summer, according to a March 25 email exchange reviewed by the Star-Telegram.

“It takes mutual trust and respect to create a positive environment for Beckham to thrive and grow. We feel that there is no longer any trust from you in our program, which makes it too difficult to continue a respectful partnership,” Parkerson wrote, adding that the program follows state and local protocols regarding staff hiring and training. “We regret things have happened the way that they did. Beckham is a very smart and happy boy. We have enjoyed the time he has been here.”

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In February, Jordan Lyle had posted a Google review outlining the family’s experience and issues at Montessori School on Camp Bowie. She said the review was almost immediately hidden from public view, and administrators denied seeing it.

According to Google, businesses can report reviews that violate Google’s content policies, such as “content that contains depictions of abuse of minors.” Google also notes that it uses “automated spam detection” to remove certain reviews, and “some legitimate reviews may be inadvertently removed” as a result. Jordan Lyle provided the Star-Telegram with a screenshot of her review that is visible to her when logged into her Google account.

In February, Jordan Lyle posted a Google review outlining her family’s experience and issues at Montessori School on Camp Bowie. She said the review was almost immediately hidden from public view, and administrators denied seeing it.
In February, Jordan Lyle posted a Google review outlining her family’s experience and issues at Montessori School on Camp Bowie. She said the review was almost immediately hidden from public view, and administrators denied seeing it.

The latest state inspection of the Montessori School on Camp Bowie was on Monday, two business days after the Lyles filed a report, but “compliance has not been determined and is still pending review,” according to Texas Health and Human Services. Records show the center’s most recent, high-risk violations included a caregiver not having “appropriate supervision” of children when they were in another room napping and lack of a required, annual fire inspection that were both found during a June 2022 inspection.

The program revolves around the “Montessori Method” with teachers who are trained and certified by “recognized Montessori institutes,” according to its website. The school lacks a formal accreditation from the American Montessori Society or Association Montessori Internationale, according to the organizations’ websites.

Attorney outlines accountability within child care system

Russell Button, a daycare injury attorney at the Button Law Firm in Dallas and Midland, said reports of abuse or neglect due to lack of training or qualifications of teachers is among the common threads that parents share with his team. Button is not representing the Lyles but has been pursuing legal action against child care facilities on behalf of families for about a decade.

“They usually have had numerous red flags along the way,” Button said of these programs. “A lot of times, the other caregivers… they don’t want to report it because they’re going to get retaliatory circumstances against them or the daycare doesn’t want to do anything because they just need people to meet the state standards,” Button said, referring to ratios required between the number of children and number of caregivers.

Button encourages parents to pay attention to the little things and voice their concerns early on, in addition to documenting those instances no matter the severity of the issue. A facility should provide an incident report to a family when an incident occurs, but if it doesn’t, parents should document it themselves if needed, he said. If something “catastrophic” or serious happens, parents should report it to the state, he said.

Typically, investigators are at the facility within a few days to a week, and parents receive a letter from the state within one to two months regarding the investigation’s findings, he said. The report itself takes longer to be issued, ranging from six months to a year. If neglect or abuse is discovered, a corrective action plan is given by the state to fix the problem or a violation goes on its record depending on what is found.

The three forms of accountability a child care facility can face are through the criminal justice system, state agency inspections and investigations, and civil claims, Button said.

“The third is a civil claim, which is what we do, and that is a lawsuit to hold the daycare responsible, accountable for their negligence — and or gross negligence — and then getting (civil) damages for the family,” he said.

In terms of reform and what could be improved within these processes, Button wishes child care facilities were required to have video surveillance of their operations so instances of neglect or abuse could be uncovered more efficiently. Additionally, he believes facilities should be required to have insurance, and the state requirements for child-to-caregiver ratios should be shortened to improve quality of care.

“Do I wish that daycares would have their licenses revoked, and or suspended, if they’re bad actors? I do. I really do,” he said, adding that he’s only seen a couple of instances of this happening.

The Button Law Firm has created two guides that help parents find a safe child care program and navigate steps to take if their child is injured at a facility. Both are available for free download on its website, which also has a national guide on how to report neglect or abuse depending on the state.

The Lyles have created an advocacy group known as GUARD, Guardians United Against Retaliation in Daycares, with the goal of supporting parents who encounter poor child care conditions through education on how to find quality care, properly document instances of neglect or abuse and detect warning signs. They also want to encourage child care facilities to take a social pledge that declares their commitment to child safety with a non-retaliation policy.

“For now, we feel our first step is building a community of support and awareness. In the coming weeks, we hope to organize an in-person family information session and advocacy meet-up,” Jordan Lyle said.