A veteran Baton Rouge day care teacher was arrested on Friday after she was accused of shoving a 1-year-old girl to the floor then slamming her against a wooden cabinet, officials said.
Melissa Schexnayder, 49, had worked at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church Preschool & Daycare for about 15 years when, according to police, she shoved an infant she was supposed to be taking care of, leaving the girl with a bloody nose on Jan. 13.
The report says that during the attack, Schexnayder pushed the infant to the ground and then “dragged her by her arm” to throw her forcefully against the cabinet.
The police report says the incident was captured on video and later reviewed by the day care center’s administrators, who then fired Schexnayder.
Schexnayder tried to tell a fellow employee the child’s nose was bleeding from allergies, according to a police report. But video surveillance at the day care showed Schexnayder “cleaning a spot on the floor” where the victim was lying face down, the report says.
Schexnayder, of 1776 Bellfort Drive, was fired shortly after the incident but was booked into Parish Prison on Friday on one count of cruelty to a juvenile.
An official with the center said the entire staff was horrified.
“Our day care in 25 years has never had anything like this happen,” said Janet Cornelius, co-chairwoman of the board that oversees the day care. “We have very nurturing, loving teachers that love our kids, and we are very saddened, very upset by this.”
In her role as a teacher of toddlers, Schexnayder was tasked with reading, playing and singing with the children, Cornelius said. The day care’s 120 or so children range from infant to 5 years old.
Cornelius said there had never been any complaints about Schexnayder previously.
The day care had measures in place to ensure safety that go beyond what is required — two teachers are assigned to a room at all times, and there is video surveillance, Cornelius said.
The report says another teacher was present in the room at the time of the incident. While the witness didn’t see Schexnayder push the girl to the ground, she did see that the victim had a bloody nose.
“We just don’t tolerate this,” Cornelius said through tears. “It is an incredible day care. We have a lot of hard-working, loving teachers, and we just want that to be how we’re seen, because it’s who we are.”