A St. Louis grand jury did not return an indictment on criminal charges against two former workers at a day care center who were accused of facilitating a ‘fight club’ among young children.
Prosecutors will not pursue the case against Tena Dailey and Mickala Guliford, who were charged in November with first-degree endangering the welfare of a child after video surfaced showing young boys wearing over-sized green Incredible Hulk fists punching each other under their watch.
The video from Adventure Learning Center in December 2016 shows the workers watching, with one of them jumping up and down in apparent excitement.
The only person shown trying to break up a fight is another preschooler.
A prosecution memo filed Monday said the case was presented to a grand jury but charges were being dropped due to ‘insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.’
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First-degree child endangerment charges have been dropped against Mickala Guliford (left) and Tena Dailey (right), who were accused of overseeing a ‘toddler fight club’ at St. Louis’s Adventure Learning Center day care center in 2016
The memo was provided on Wednesday by Dailey’s attorney, Talmage Newton IV, who said in a statement he was pleased by the decision.
Both teachers were fired but no charges were filed until after the video, obtained by KTVI-TV, aired in October.
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office cited ‘new evidence’ in filing charges. The case was then sent to a grand jury.
Dailey and Guliford were fired from Adventure Learning Center after video emerged of them appearing to encourage three- and four-year-old children to fight each other
Susan Ryan, a spokesperson for Gardner, said in a statement that while prosecutors share the community’s concern about the children, it was ‘the right thing’ to allow the grand jury to decide on charges.
The women were initially accused of encouraging fighting that involved at least six children on December 7, 2016, prompting police to book them on felony child endangerment charges.
But Guliford and Dailey both avoided the first-degree endangering a child accusations.
Disturbing video from incident shows the children pounding each other to the ground while others break down in tears, over a period of about 35 minutes.
In the clip a woman who appears to be Guliford is jumping up and down in excitement as another puts a ‘Hulk Smash Hand’ – plush gloves inspired by the superhero – on each toddler’s hand.
The incident on December 7, 2016, involved at least six children and lasted 35 minutes
A 10-year-old whose brother took part in the fights filmed the incident as he and other older children watched from a neighboring classroom
A child can then be seen punching another boy in the face, pounding his head into the floor over and over again as a group of kids circle them and watch.
The only person who tries to break up the fight is another preschooler, but he is unable to pull his friends apart.
Both surveillance cameras and the 10-year-old brother of one of the fighters recorded the scene, with the brother filming as he watched the melee with a group of older children from a room next door.
A child can be seen punching another boy in the face, pounding the other’s head into the floor over and over again as a group of kids circle them and watch
The only person who tries to break up the fight is another preschooler, but he is unable to pull his friends apart
That child, who was worried about his four-year-old brother, who was crying after three fights, sent the video to his mother, Nicole Merseal, who contacted the center director.
It was also her younger son’s birthday.
‘He doesn’t understand why his friends were fighting him…why he was beaten up by his best friends,’ Merseal told DailyMailTV affiliate
‘In the video, he’s wiping his face over and over again,’ Merseal added. ‘The daycare worker – you see her walk over to him and tell him “You’re fine” and pat him on the back and then walk and start another fight with other kids.’
Nicole Merseal, whose 10-year-old son filmed the fights after seeing his four-year-old brother was involved, said she is suing the school for $25,000
Merseal’s son filmed the video and texted it to his mother because he was worried about his four-year-old brother (pictured), who was crying after three fights, and who suffered a black eye according to court documents
Surveillance cameras also recorded the 35-minute ‘fight club’, showing brawl after brawl
Merseal said her son texted her the video and said ‘the daycare was making them fight, not helping them’.
The young child suffered a black eye, according to charging documents.
After taking with Merseal and firing Dailey and Guliford, the director also called the child abuse hotline.
The lead teacher later said they organized the fight club to try and entertain the children after the heater broke.
The St Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the daycare from the outset, which remains in operation today.
‘There was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any laws were violated,’ the St Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
‘However, that does not diminish the incredibly poor judgment by these adults who had the responsibility to safely supervise these children.’
But inspections at the daycare were increased after the incident and, in the last two years, eight visits have turned up 26 new violations.
Just this March, a four-year-old child claimed a teacher at the daycare center ‘cussed at him, flicked him, grabbed him, and pushed him to the ground’.
That same month a caregiver was seen grabbing a three-year-old child by the arm and dragging them.
The daycare’s director had been standing in the classroom at the time but did not respond to the incident.
Merseal doesn’t think enough was done following the horrific fight club, revealing that her younger son still doesn’t understand that brawling at daycare isn’t normal.
‘When we chose a new daycare for him and he started going, he asked me in the car if they were going to make him fight,’ she said.
Merseal is now suing Adventure Learning Center for more than $25,000.
‘I want them to be held accountable,’ she said. ‘I don’t want this to happen to any other child.’
A phone message left with the center’s attorney was not immediately returned.
The St Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute the daycare (pictured) but a lawsuit against the center is pending