Roswell day care seeks name change while under investigation

The owner of the Roswell day care under investigation for alleged preferential treatment of white children over Black children has applied for a business name change.  ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
The owner of the Roswell day care under investigation for alleged preferential treatment of white children over Black children has applied for a business name change. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

The owner of the Roswell day care under investigation for alleged preferential treatment of white children over Black children has applied for a business name change. But officials with the Department of Early Care and Learning say they have not finished their inquiry into complaints about the day care and have not yet approved the new name.

The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning announced last week it was investigating complaints filed earlier about practices at the former Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy on Pine Grove Road.

The department’s Chief Communications Officer Reg Griffin said of the day care, “They have every intention of remaining open, depending on what happens.”

Griffin said the investigation has been a slower process than normal because former franchise owner Dee Gillespie temporarily closed the business. Normally, officials would be able to interview staff and students at one location, he said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been unable to reach Gillespie by phone, text or through Kids ‘R’ Kids International.

Owner Gillespie has been cooperating with the investigation and department officials are contacting parents, Griffin said Thursday.

“Even as young as the children are, our folks are trained to talk at their level,” Griffin said. “And we’ve gotten the video.”

While viewing a live video feed from inside the day care earlier this month, parents noticed white children were fed before Black children beside them. A still photo taken from video footage and shared with local media shows white children with plates of food and no plates for the Black children.

Kids ‘R’ Kids corporate entity, which has 169 franchises, cut business ties with Gillespie. An email statement from Kids ‘R’ Kids International’s attorney, Anita Wallace Thomas, said their own preliminary investigation raised several concerns.

Thomas said the live-streaming cameras are an important aspect of the day care centers.

“...These state-of-the-art cameras operated as intended when a family member of one of our children witnessed disturbing images at one of our franchised locations,” Thomas said in the statement. “We expect to undergo a thorough investigation to assure that each Kids ‘R’ Kids center operates in compliance with our standards.”

On Thursday, another parent contacted The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to raise concerns about racial preference being shown at the day care. Shyrell Oliver, whose 3-year-old son attended the Roswell day care, said she told a state investigator that in addition to the most recent incident, there were two occasions this year when she worried about how he was treated there.

Oliver said she called Gillespie twice within a week at the end of January, first when her son left the center with cuts on his arms, and then when live-stream video showed he was the only child without a blanket during nap time.

“Dee walked my son out of the car (that day) into the school with his blanket,” Oliver said. “He’s laying there with his arms tucked under him like he’s cold.”

Oliver said both she and her son’s father are devastated by recent events at the day care and the effect it might have on their son. The 3-year-old’s pediatrician suggested the parents take him to a child psychologist, she said.

“It’s devastating for both of us,” Oliver said. “No one can put into words how we feel. The only thing you can do is watch the video and hear the state say ‘We’re investigating.’ It’s heartbreaking.”

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