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State Regulators Conducted “Mask Raids” and Interviewed Preschoolers in Isolated Rooms


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Several parents at Aspen Leaf Preschool in San Diego are furious that state child care licensing investigators questioned their children without supervision.

The investigators reportedly separated children into isolated rooms and interviewed them without the presence of familiar adults.

Some Aspen Leaf parents stated they thought such severe tactics were only used in child abuse investigations.

But those extreme tactics were reportedly utilized on young children over masking policies at the preschool.

Parents have described the incidents as “mask raids” and a “gross abuse of power” by the regulators.

Voice of San Diego had the scoop:

Stephanie and Richard Rosado recently told their 4-year-old son about the importance of not talking to strangers. Only days later, state regulators came to the child’s preschool, isolated him in a room away from his teachers and friends and asked him questions about masking.

His parents, and many others at the preschool, were furious.

Regulators questioned the Rosados’ son as part of an investigation into masking practices at Aspen Leaf Preschool, which operates three locations in San Diego. All three locations were simultaneously “raided,” as some parents have called it, in mid-January. Regulators separated the children and toddlers from familiar adults at each of the centers to ask questions about the preschools’ masking policies.

What’s strange about that decision, parents and teachers say, is that Aspen Leaf officials had already been open with parents and regulators about their decision to not mask children.

Regulators isolated and interviewed children aged one to four, a step many parents say was inappropriate and unnecessary.

“This gross abuse of power is shameful and unacceptable for many reasons,” wrote the Rosados in a complaint. “The people who ordered this to be done and those who participated should be held responsible.”

The California Department of Social Services and its child care licensing program oversee regulatory compliance in preschools. Child care licensing investigators do have the authority to interview children in isolated settings, but many Aspen Leaf parents said they believed such tactics were meant to be used in extreme cases, like alleged child abuse.

Regulators “determined that the interviews were conducted in an appropriate manner and were a necessary component of the required complaint investigation,” Kevin Gaines, deputy director of child care licensing, wrote to one Aspen Leaf parent, who lodged a complaint.

“Staff are trained to conduct interviews with children in a manner that avoids causing undue stress,” Gaines wrote.

Gaines attempted to excuse their abusive actions by claiming an Aspen Lead adult was in the “line of sight” of each interviewed child.

However, the excuses didn’t sit well with the furious parents.

cont. from Voice of San Diego:

Connie Wu’s daughter was not yet 2 –years old when she was interviewed by regulators in January. Wu doesn’t know what happened in the room or how her daughter felt – because her daughter is too young to say.

“She’s not developmentally able to tell me,” Wu told me. “She doesn’t have the vocabulary to be able to talk about being interviewed by a stranger.”

Aspen Leaf closed briefly when the pandemic began in March 2020. But when it re-opened in June, it openly did not enforce the state’s mask requirement.

The owners of Aspen Leaf reasoned that children would not be allowed to wear masks while they were sleeping or eating. In other words, they’d give each other COVID-19 no matter what. On top of that, they didn’t believe the masks would be great for children’s development.

Howard Wu, unrelated to Connie Wu, is a part-owner of Aspen Leaf and a lawyer.

Wu does not believe the agency has the power to enforce a mask mandate and thinks they targeted his facilities for questioning their authority.

Child care licensing officials have not responded to questions about whether they targeted Aspen Leaf more severely than other facilities.

During the Omicron outbreak, a parent complained to the licensing authority, and an investigator called Wu to enforce the mask mandate.

Investigators showed up at the facilities a few days later, saw children not wearing masks, and conducted the interviews.

They issued Aspen Leaf a Type A citation, the most severe violation type.

After the investigators intimidated Aspen Leaf to mask its children, the state’s mask requirement for child care centers will end on March 11th.


Parents should not forget this despicable child abuse and hold these regulators accountable for their actions. 



 

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