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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Baby Fight Club’ Day Care Hauled Into Court

MANASSAS, Va. (CN) — Parents of a dozen toddlers subjected to what prosecutors called a "baby fight club" at a Virginia day care brought lawsuits on the same day as one former caregiver's sentencing.

Kierra Springs, 26, received a 33-month prison term on Sept. 29 after jurors convicted her of numerous child-abuse charges from her work at Minnieland Academy in 2013.

The case includes shocking stories of Springs, along with former colleague Sarah Jordan, viciously beating, torturing, force-feeding and tormenting children in Minnieland's so-called "monkey room."

Jordan, 31, was previously sentenced to two years in prison.

On the day of Spriggs' sentencing last month, a dozen families filed suits against the women and five corporate entities of Minnieland.

The "baby fight club" slogan stemmed from allegations that the caregivers forced their wards, most of whom were under 2 years old, to fight each other.

Jurors also heard how Spriggs force-fed Flamin' Hot Cheetos to the children in her care, snapped rubber bands on their arms as they cried, and stepped forcefully on their toes. Though Spriggs reportedly declined to speak to the families at the hearing, ABC News quoted a letter she sent to the judge after she was convicted.

"I am whole-heartedly apologetic of the hurt, humiliation and embarrassment this tribulation has brought us all," Spriggs wrote.

Jordan meanwhile continued to denied the allegations against her at her sentencing.

In addition to encouraging children to bite and fight one another for her entertainment, Jordan was accused of spraying children in the face with a water hose and purposefully tripping them.

Jordan told the court that she sprayed the children in the face as one might playfully with a sprinkler.

The families who filed suit in Prince William County Circuit Court are each bringing 10 counts against the women and their former employer.

In addition to assault and battery, the families want damages for fraud, negligence, breach of contract, violations of the Consumer Fraud Protection Act, and other charges.

Reached for comment on the lawsuit, Minnieland Academy defended its handling of the abuse.

"In August 2013, a teacher at Minnieland at the Glen told us inappropriate behavior had occurred in a classroom," Minnieland CEO Chuck Leopold said in a statement. "We immediately self-reported the incidents to Child Protective Services (CPS) and the Division of Licensing. To our knowledge, this was the first time any teacher at The Glen reported such incidents to management. The employment of all individuals involved was terminated. Minnieland staff and leadership fully cooperated with the authorities in pursing justice in this matter."

Leopold said Minnieland is committed to improving how it hires, trains and observes employees. In the meantime the school has upgraded its in-house camera systems.

"We have continued to conduct periodic parent surveys and we have implemented a toll-free 24 hour anonymous tip line called 'See Something, Say Something' for information sharing and reporting by both parents and staff," Leopold said. "We continue to train employees on the importance of mandatory reporting policies, and we conduct quarterly staff surveys. Minnieland has continued to develop relationships with the thousands of families who trust us to care for their children and we are honored to be a partner in their early childhood education and nurturing."

The families suing say the academy is liable for fraud given that it had promoted its organization as a "welcoming environment for learning," where parents could feel confident that the academy "gave top priority to the safety and security of each child."

They also allege that Minnieland was derelict in failing to "report abuse promptly to the proper authorities," and they accuse the school of having hid or concealed "assaults or battery or abuse inflicted on [minors]."

Minnieland should have made it a point moreover to "retain only those agents, contractors, employees or representatives who were qualified, screened or properly trained ... to prevent harm to the children in their care," the complaint says

Jordan worked at Minnieland for six years before she was fired in 2013, and Spriggs for only a few years less.

The lawsuits say no supervisor at Minnieland reported the abuse despite other teachers admitting during the trial that they bore witness to the events.

An investigation into the allegations began only after a director at Minnieland complained Child Protective Services.

Reports of court testimony show that Spriggs openly admitted her abuses to Prince William police detective Marcos Spittal during the investigation. Spittal reportedly testified that Spriggs admitting to biting one child, stomping on another's feet and force-feed the hot Cheetos to a toddler.

The families are represented by Kevin Leach with the Burke, Va., firm Turbitt, O'Herron and Leach, and by James McCoart III of Manassas, Va.

The attorneys did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

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