Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017
(News 12 NBC 26 News At 11)

UPDATE | 11:45 p.m.

MARTINEZ, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — As investigations surround the Foundations Christian Preschool in Martinez, questions are being raised about child abuse cases and who has the power to report them to authorities.

Part of this issue goes back to July when school director Melinda Williams tell us about a different teacher grabbing a student by the arm and leaving bruises, unrelated to charges brought against teacher Shannon McCune. Williams says she immediately responded after seeing video evidence of the teacher grabbing the student.

“So I fired the teacher,” Williams tells News 12 NBC 26 over the phone. “I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. So then it was brought to me this past Friday that there was a warrant out for that because I failed to send in a mandated report.”

It was not enough, however, according to state laws. Georgia mandated reporter laws state people in power like school teachers, physicians, dentists, counselors and others in similar positions are required to report suspected child abuse without making any changes to information in the report.

According to the Mandated Reporter Law – O.C.G.A. §19-7-5 (2016), the law states, “If a person is required to report child abuse pursuant to this subsection because such person attends to a child pursuant to such person’s duties as an employee of or volunteer at a hospital, school, social agency, or similar facility, such person shall notify the person in charge of such hospital, school, agency, or facility, or the designated delegate thereof, and the person so notified shall report or cause a report to be made in accordance with this Code section.”

“An employee or volunteer who makes a report to the person designated pursuant to this paragraph shall be deemed to have fully complied with this subsection. Under no circumstances shall any person in charge of such hospital, school, agency, or facility, or the designated delegate thereof, to whom such notification has been made exercise any control, restraint, or modification or make any other change to the information provided by the reporter, although each of the aforementioned persons may be consulted prior to the making of a report and may provide any additional, relevant, and necessary information when making the report.”

Williams, however, says she did not know that was part of the process and thought firing the employee involved would be enough to resolve the issue.

“Honestly, I did not know I had to file a report at the time,” Williams says. “Now I know if there’s even somebody who says anything, evidence or not, that I’m to fill out a report and file it and we’re making that a mandated training now, a yearly training.”

Parents with kids at the school gathered for a private meeting with school leaders Thursday night to discuss the recent news and where the school goes from here. Williams says they have support from other parents, even as the investigations continue.

“A lot of the parents will tell you their children want to come and see their teachers in the morning, they ask for them on the weekend,” Williams says. “We want it to be a safe and loving place for these children.”

Georgia’s laws state anyone with the power to report suspected child abuse and does not is guilty of a misdemeanor. If convicted of these abuse allegations, penalties could include the suspending or revoking of operating license a public reprimand or a fine of no more than $25,000.

Conviction could also mean permanently closing the child care center.

Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017
(News 12 at 6 o’clock/NBC 26 at 7)

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — Shannon McCune and Melinda Williams made headlines just yesterday surrounding allegations that McCune beat a preschool age child with a small flag pole.

Since then there have been at least two other reported allegations of abuse involving the preschool.

Mccune is still sitting in jail on a child cruelty charge and Williams is out on bond.

DCAL (Department of early Care and Learning) has an open investigation into Foundations Christian Preschool. Details are limited since it’s an open investigation.

In a separate incident, DCAL was called out about two weeks ago after complaints of bad smells and a leak. That investigation details a leak causing that odor which was making the kids smell. It also noted the kids were not “clean, dry and comfortable”.

But again, this brings us now to three abuse allegations and an additional state investigation at the same preschool.

Three child cruelty cases involving a 3-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old. All of them allegedly happened at Foundations Christian Preschool on South Belair Road.

“He had bruises and we would ask him how did you get this bruise — he would sometimes tell us America did it.” Carol Conner’s grandson was four-years-old when the alleged abuse started sometime in October.

Now his teacher Shannon McCune charged with child cruelty.

The preschool director Melinda Williams also charged with failure to report suspected child abuse.

Brooke: I’m looking for Melinda. Is she here?

A person at preschool: …she is not. She’s not here today.

When we found she wasn’t there went to the Department of Early Care and Learning. They’re the state agency regulating early child care center like this.

News 12/NBC 26 found multiple complaint investigations against the preschool. The director called us and told us she fired a different teacher after allegations of abuse.

Melinda Williams, director of Foundations Christian Preschool said, “I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. So then it was brought to me this past Friday that there was a warrant out for that because I failed to send in a mandated report.”

The state says this isn’t the first time director Melinda Williams failed to report an incident.

On Oct 5th of 2015: “the center failed to properly report an incident involving a 1-year-old requiring professional medical attention.”

The state says centers like this are required to report any serious illness or injury requiring medical attention within 24 hours. That incident wasn’t reported until a week later.

“I would never let anything happen to these children. I mean this is our life, this is what we do is we provide a safe place for children and for something to happen like that, to even think something would happen like that is horrendous,” said Williams.

But during a licensing inspection back in November of 2016, the state found hazardous items in unlocked cabinets including Clorox wipes, bleach, and medicine.

The state also found ten-inch gaps at the bottom of the fence outside near the playground and at least two missing or incomplete criminal background checks for two employees.

Fast forward to this November, eight of eight swing chains rusted and one of two tricycles was missing a pedal.

But the biggest shock to Carol is the physical marks on her grandson that allegedly came from one of his teachers.

“We looked at it and it was like oh my gosh this is not right you don’t get perfect circle bruises right down the spine.”

Where do all investigations stand?

At least one of the abuse reports was sent to the DA’s office to get in front of a grand jury. The plan there would be to likely put all 3 abuse allegations together to build one case.

As for the state investigation, we’re working to find out how long that could go on, but we know they are working with local law enforcement there.

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