CRANFORD, NJ – Chanese White, 28, of Roselle, and Erica Kenny, 22, of Cranford, both former employees of the Lightbridge Academy in Cranford, have been charged with fourth-degree child abuse. In addition, Kenny was charged with third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Union County Prosecutor, Grace H. Park, on Tuesday. The two are accused of instigating and encouraging fighting among a group of children at the establishment last month.
White and Kenny were charged via summons last Friday and Monday, respectively, and are expected to appear in court for first appearances this Friday, Sept. 4.
An investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit recently revealed that the defendants instigated fights among children ages 4 to 6, at the Lightbridge Academy on South Avenue East in Cranford on at least one day in mid-August, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sheets, who is prosecuting the case.
Kenny is further accused of recording video of the fights with her cell phone and sharing the video clips with several friends on social media via the Snapchat app, Sheets said. In the video clips, Kenny can be heard referencing the activity as “Fight Club,” quoting from the book and movie of the same name in encouraging the children to engage each other physically. About a dozen boys and girls at the daycare center can be seen in the video clips shoving each other to the ground and attempting to strike each other. The children involved in the fights are not believed to have suffered any serious injuries.
“As an educator I am outraged over this,” said Roselle Mayor Christine Dansereau. “I ask everyone to please, if you see this kind of thing happening, put an end to it! If our children are not safe in a daycare, where are they safe?”
The investigation into this matter remains ongoing and anyone with information is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Joanne Son at 908-527-4696.
Convictions on third-degree criminal charges can result in sentences of three to five years in state prison, according to the prosecutor's office. Fourth-degree crimes are punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent.
Lightbridge Academy, formerly called the Rainbow Academy, is a franchise company with 20 locations in New Jersey. In response to the prosecutor's announcement, it issued this statement on Tuesday:
Today the Union County Prosecutor’s Office informed us that charges have been filed against two former staff members related to their encouragement of children to push and shove each other on the playground on August 13th. As parents and caregivers, we are shocked and saddened by this isolated incident and we have assisted the prosecutor’s office from the start of its investigation into this matter.
While no children were physically harmed during this incident, we have a zero tolerance policy for anyone who acts in conflict with the core value of Lightbridge Academy – the safety and well-being of children. We terminated the employment of these staff members and have maintained open communication with our parents throughout this process.
We sincerely thank our parents and dedicated staff for their support and patience. The actions of these two individuals do not reflect the culture of Lightbridge Academy and what we have stood for more than 18 years. While we will continue to fully support and assist the prosecutor’s office, we remain focused on the education and well-being of all children in our care.
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