A 4-year-old boy was reportedly fed hot sauce by a woman at his daycare facility as a form of punishment, according to the boy's mother.
Melaina Whitley said her son Tanner began vomiting when he came home from Friendship Pediatric Services, a daycare for special needs children. She spoke to KATV about the troubling experience.
"I thought maybe just like a stomach virus or something, but it only lasted about a day," she said.
Eventually Tanner, who receives speech therapy at the daycare, disclosed that he had been given hot sauce by one of his teachers.
"When he said hot sauce, I thought maybe pop tarts, and I was like, 'Hot sauce?' Because I didn't know he knew the word hot sauce, so I know she had to have told him, 'I'm giving you hot sauce,'" Whitley told the news agency.
"You just don't expect that," she added. "They're supposed to be qualified to work with special needs children and they're supposed to know not to give hot sauce."
After confronting the woman at the daycare, Whitley says she notified the police.
"I know when she was like, 'Let me give you hot sauce,' he didn't just say, 'OK, cool,' and open his mouth," she said. "It must have been forced because he wasn't just like, 'Here, give me some hot sauce.' He said he was crying and had to get water and it was nasty. I don't know if this was the first time or he was the only child [this happened to]."
Daycare director Karla Curry reportedly told police that the teacher in question confessed to giving Tanner hot sauce; she said hot sauce is a common form of discipline in her culture.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) names time-out as the only approved method of discipline, according to KATV. DHS is reportedly investigating the incident.
"They should at least fire her I think," Whitley said. "Just anything, just something at all. I know for a fact she still works there."
Curry would not confirm whether the teacher is still employed at the daycare. A statement was sent to KATV by the daycare facility.
"Any events that occur out of the expected and that could be possible violations of day center regulations are always self-reported to licensing at DHS," the statement reads in part. "Any injury to a child is self-reported to licensing at DHS. We expect to be held accountable and to learn from events to ensure the situation is never repeated."
Oddly, this isn't the first time a child was force-fed hot sauce at a daycare center. In 2012, two Oklahoma daycare workers were fired after giving hot sauce to a 13-month-old child in their care, according to The Associated Press via KOTV. Both workers were also arrested and charged with felony child abuse.