California state regulators investigated a preschool in San Diego and privately interviewed children as young as 2 years old without parental consent about their masking practices.
California Department of Social Services (CDSS) officials visited the three Aspen Leaf Preschool sites in January after receiving a complaint that the school was not enforcing the state’s mask mandate, according to CDSS’s response to a complaint from preschool owner Howard Wu.
According to the CDSS letter, which Wu shared with Fox News Digital, officials from the agency’s Community Care Licensing Division entered the three preschools on Jan. 19, separated the children from their teachers, and took them away. privately interviewed about their masking practices.
In his complaint to the agency, Wu described the investigation as a “simultaneous raid on multiple schools” that resulted in “unnecessary and inappropriate interviews with children.”
“Every family we heard from after the inspections was furious about the interviews,” Wu told Fox News Digital. “We opened up the whole pandemic about not masking children and the reasons why. The policy was on our website. Simply put, the mask guidelines state that children may NOT mask while eating and sleeping. In full day care, it’s 3 hours, so masking at other times offers no health benefit. All families (except 1 in January) supported the policy.
Wu also argues that the CDSS does not have the authority to enforce a mask mandate instituted by another agency, in this case the California Department of Public Health.
“We have a good faith belief that the agency lacks jurisdiction to enforce another agency’s mask guidelines,” he said. “They could have issued us a citation in 5 minutes and let us complete our challenge through the proper channels. Raiding multiple schools simultaneously and interviewing children felt like a power game.
In its response to Wu, the CDSS said it has the authority “to enter and inspect a licensed child care center at any time, with or without notice, to ensure compliance or prevent violation” of the laws of the State, as well as “interview children without prior consent and, if necessary, conduct interviews in private”.
“Based on personal observations and interviews with facility directors, staff and children, CCLD staff determined that the licensee failed to ensure that staff and children used face coverings as required by the State Public Health Officer’s Order of June 11, 2021, thereby violating the children’s personal right to safe and healthy housing,” the letter reads.
The agency issued Aspen Leaf a Type A citation, the most serious type of violation, Voice of San Diego reported.
In response to the citation, which Aspen Leaf said was appealing, the school updated its COVID-19 policy to require masks on all children over age 2 until the end of the state’s term. the 11th of March.
In his formal complaint, Wu included several complaints from parents outraged by the CPSS investigation.
‘I do not believe this interview served my child’s safety or well-being,’ wrote one parent, ‘and I believe it may have given a detrimental impression on his obligations to speak with unfamiliar adults in private. without the presence of known guards.”
“I understand that although the licensing agency is authorized to conduct private interviews with children – this authority has been put in place and is intended for use where there is a situation of possible abuse, which is ENTIRELY absent from this situation,” another parent wrote. “Therefore, this agency has blatantly exceeded its authority.”
“Frustrated. Angry. Appalled. Confused,” another parent wrote. questioned by government officials at his preschool about wearing a mask indoors.”
Wu said he believed his kindergarten had been unfairly targeted because he challenged the authority of the CDSS.
“After all of that, I actually pulled all the licensing reports released in California during the pandemic to get the data showing that we were treated more harshly than any other center,” he told Fox News Digital. .
Wu posted the data on a website he created saying, “California is having a child care crisis” and “the child care licensing agency is making it worse.”
When contacted by Fox News Digital, CCLD provided its written response to parents who complained.
“We want to assure you that CCLD takes seriously its responsibility to ensure the health and safety of children in licensed daycares,” read the March 1 letter from CCLD Deputy Director Kevin Gaines. “It is for this reason that CCLD spoke with your child.”
“CCLD has confirmed that conversations with children during the investigation of the complaint were conducted with Aspen Leaf personnel present or within sight of Aspen Leaf personnel,” the letter states. “The CLCD determined that the interviews were conducted in a proper manner and were a necessary part of the required investigation into the complaint.”
“A licensing evaluator respects the child’s choice to answer the questions,” he added. “If, at any time during an interview, a child expresses or demonstrates apprehension or unease, the interview is terminated.”
New York Post