Video Shows Alleged Toddler 'Fight Club' in Mo. Day Care, Teachers Claimed Kids 'Were Bored'
Two teachers who allegedly encouraged children to fight as a "stress release exercise" lost their jobs days after the 2016 incident
A Missouri mother has sued a St. Louis day care center, alleging her preschool-aged son was traumatized nearly two years ago when two former employees forced him to fight another boy while both children were wearing bulky, hard-plastic gloves.
The lawsuit, obtained by PEOPLE, alleges teachers Mickala Guliford and Tena Dailey “directed a fight club” on Dec. 7, 2016, while both were still employed at the Adventure Learning Center in St. Louis. The women lost their jobs days later.
The suit was filed by Nicole Merseal, who claims her son was only 4 when the fights were organized. (Merseal spoke with a media outlet, so PEOPLE is identifying her.) The lawsuit states the boy has not been the same since he was forced to fight one of his friends.
Footage of the fighting, which was apparently shot by a 10-year-old, was released this week.
It shows the two boys — each wearing large, green gloves shaped like the fists of comic book character the Incredible Hulk — squaring off on a blue carpet, surrounding by their peers. The teachers, who were never criminally charged for their actions, can be seen excitedly cheering on the violence, as one of the boys falls to the floor.
The footage then shows the other preschooler repeatedly strike the child on the floor.
In the video, at least one of the children in the room, watching the fight, goes to stop it, but is unable to get between the two boys.
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Merseal’s lawsuit claims her son suffered physical injuries as a result of the fight, and continues to endure “mental harm” because of the teachers’ “wanton, willful and outrageous” actions.
PEOPLE tried but was unable to reach a representative from the day care center for comment. Similar efforts were made unsuccessfully to track down Guliford and Dailey.
PEOPLE was provided with court documents that suggest the fights were staged between a number of children over a 30-minute period.
Police did investigate the matter, speaking to both teachers, who allegedly admitted they did encourage the children to fight. The court documents state that Guliford allegedly told police the fighting was meant “to be a stress release exercise” for the children, who she claimed “were bored.”
In addition, the documents allege Guliford said to police she and Dailey “ran out of things to do” with the children left in their charge.
A statement from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office claims the case against the two women was not prosecutable.
“There was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any laws were violated,” reads the statement to PEOPLE. “However, that does not diminish the incredibly poor judgment by these adults who had the responsibility to safely supervise these children.”
The lawsuit is still pending before a judge.