Daycare Admits To Feeding 4-Year-Old Hot Sauce As Punishment

by Ashley Austrew
Image via Shutterstock

A daycare teacher fed a four-year-old hot sauce as a punishment for bad behavior

For most kids, daycare is a fun, safe place to learn and play, but one Arkansas mom is livid after she says her trusted childcare provider punished her four-year-old son by forcing him to eat hot sauce.

Melaina Whitley’s son, Tanner, attends Friendship Pediatrics Services in Bryant, Arkansas. The center is for children with special needs, and Tanner goes there regularly for speech therapy, but one day last month he was sent home early because he was throwing up “uncontrollably.” Whitley thought her son contracted a stomach bug, but in talking with him, she soon discovered he’d been force-fed hot sauce as punishment for hitting his friend.

“When he said hot sauce, I thought maybe pop tarts, and I was like, ‘Hot sauce?’ Because I didn’t know he even knew the word hot sauce,” Whitley told KATV. “I know she had to have told him, ‘I’m giving you hot sauce.’ I know when she was like, ‘Let me give you hot sauce,’ he [Tanner] didn’t just say, ‘Okay, cool,’ and open his mouth… He said he was crying and had to get water and it was nasty.”

Whitley confronted her son’s teacher about the incident, then decided to get the police involved. According to KATV, the daycare center’s director, Kayla Curry, said in a police report the teacher admitted to forcing the little boy to eat hot sauce and explained that it was a common punishment for kids in her culture. What’s even more unbelievable is that Whitley said she knows “for a fact” that the teacher hasn’t been fired yet.

The center’s director wouldn’t comment on whether or not the teacher is still employed, but she did release a statement saying she self-reported the incident to the Department of Human Services and is cooperating fully with their investigation.

“It is our expectation we will learn the results [of the investigation] soon, and will assure parents and staff that we will put in place measures designed to be certain the incident will not be repeated,” the statement says. Perhaps they should’ve implemented “measures designed to be certain” kids aren’t forced to eat hot sauce until they barf in the first place.

Most parents expect that their kids will have to face the occasional “time out” or consequence while they’re away at daycare, but what this little boy went through is simply unacceptable. You can’t help but wonder how the center’s director didn’t know this was going on, or if other kids were harmed before the teacher’s disturbing “discipline” tactic finally came to light.

So many parents rely on daycare as a safe, nurturing environment in which to leave their kids. In this case, the daycare was also supposed to be a positive space for helping children with disabilities. That anyone in such an environment would think it’s acceptable to physically harm a child is disturbing, and it just proves how important it is to talk to our kids about what’s going on at school or daycare, even when they’re going to a place we trust.

Kudos to this little boy for being brave enough to speak up and for helping his mom put a stop to a cruel disciplinary practice that never should’ve been used in the first place.