Parents complained of abuse in 2016 about daycare found with “disturbing discipline” in October

Reporter: Lauren Sweeney
Published: Updated:

A Cape Coral mother says she’s been raising alarm about Kiddie Island Academy since 2016.

Suzie Foley said she noticed a gash on her son’s head after returning home from the daycare. When she called Kiddie Island for an explanation, she said staff kept changing their story.

“At first she told me they didn’t know what happened so he must have come in with the injury, and I said that didn’t happen and then she said well I heard that maybe a bookshelf fell on his head,” said Foley who filed a complaint with DCF.

The daycare later told DCF and Foley that the mark was caused by the child’s dry skin and closed the complaint with no findings.

Another parent complained that year to the Cape Coral police that her daughter came home saying a teacher at Kiddie Island hit her in the face and that another teacher dragged her by the ankle.

Kiddie Island told DCF investigators that the child was not able to identify the teachers responsible and DCF closed that complaint with no findings.

When video surfaced of an October 2019 incident showing teacher Diana Varela pushing, spanking and dragging a 21-month old by her arm, Foley said she was horrified that another child had been abused.

DOCUMENTKiddie Island Complaint report by DCF

DCF closed an investigation into the daycare in mid-October, issuing violations for demeaning and frightening physical discipline and lying to the parent about the incident.

The mother of that child, Sierra Bruner, said she was told her daughter fell asleep on a book which caused an indent on the child’s face. Bruner provided photos to WINK news to show a scratch and a blood blister under the child’s lip.

By phone on Friday, Kiddie Island director Maria Varela said it was a hard plastic book that caused the mark on the child’s face. She said she is appealing the violations issued by DCF.

DCF has another ongoing investigation into Kiddie Island but won’t say what it is about. The State Attorney’s office is reviewing the October 2019 incident case to determine if Diana Varela will be arrested. WINK News has not been able to reach her directly for her account of what happened.

DCF records obtained by WINK News shows that other staff at Kiddie Island claimed Varela was stressed.

WINK News could not reach anyone from Kiddie Island Academy Monday for a response regarding Foley’s 2016 allegation.

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