Central Arkansas daycare worker accused of abusing two children at center

McKenzie Howell, 19

A daycare worker in central Arkansas was arrested Monday in a reported case of abuse involving two children she was responsible for, police said.

McKenzie Howell, 19, of Mabelvale surrendered to authorities around 8 a.m. on two counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a minor, records show.

Howell, listed as a class instructor Kid’s Academy in Bryant, is no longer employed at the daycare, Bryant Police Department spokesman Sgt. Todd Crowson said.

“After investigators spoke with witnesses and reviewed the daycare security cameras, there was clearly enough evidence to obtain a warrant for Howell’s arrest,” a news release states.

A caller told police on Thursday that her 21-month-old son was abused by Howell at the child care center between 11 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. June 29, according to a police report.

The mother, who also works at Kid’s Academy, said that after being informed of possible abuse, she watching video surveillance and contacted the Child Abuse Hotline, which referred her to Bryant police.

While the child was waiting for lunch in class, Howell snatched him up “aggressively off the ground and attempted to put him in his chair that was near the wall,” the mother told police. Authorities said Howell dropped the boy, and his head and body appeared to have hit the wall before he fell to the floor.

The child was eventually picked up again by Howell and placed back in his chair, the report states. No markings were observed on the boy’s body.

According to the report, co-worker Bailey Phillips said she also noticed Howell pulling another child’s arm and pushing her into the wall.

Howell then “pulled [the girl’s] legs out from underneath her, causing [her] to hit her head on the floor,” the report said.

Police said Phillips then walked out of the room and notified her boss, Kid’s Academy manager Paula Lee. Lee told an officer that after Phillips informed her of the acts, she reviewed the footage and contacted her supervisor.

Howell, who had been told by Lee in the past to not be “verbally aggressive” toward the children, was sent home and told to not return “until further notice,” police said.

Howell was transported to the Saline County jail, where she remained as of shortly before 2 p.m., according to an online inmate roster.

In January, the state Department of Human Services launched a licensing investigation based off a complaint about the daycare’s staff-to-child ratio, spokeswoman Marcy Manley said at the time.

An internal report detailed that the Kid's Academy location had fired a staff member for not being able to account for all of the children in her care. Two children reportedly ran out when a parent opened a door, and the assigned teacher did not realize a child was gone, officials said then.


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Information for this article was contributed by Rachel Herzog of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.