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Violation of the Early Childhood Code of Ethics

One of the more common venues in which early childhood education takes place is a daycare center. Undoubtedly, most daycare centers uphold the NAEYC Code of Conduct for Early Childhood Education, with its principles guiding the behavior of adults entrusted with the care and education of very young children. Unfortunately, however, daycare centers are also notorious for paying their employees relatively low wages and not being extremely discerning in terms of whom they hire. They also can be located in less-than-ideal settings, such as the family room of someone's house or a church basement - settings that do their best in terms of offering stimulation and comfort to the children, but often fall short. Thus, some daycare centers can end up being not much more than holding cells for children while their parents are unable to care for them - far from the interesting, fun, appealing places with caring, knowledgeable staff that they are intended to be.

Childhood Code

It only takes a perfunctory Google search to uncover numerous instances of abuse that take place in some daycare centers. What one must remember, too, while reading the situations that crop up in such a search, that only the most extreme cases tend to make it to the news; for every shocking case of child sexual abuse or murder of a child, there are many other cases of maltreatment of children that are not deemed newsworthy.

One of the cases that was newsworthy happened in Dover, DE at a daycare center called Hand of Our Future. Apparently, three workers there decided it would be amusing to set up several toddlers as if they were fighting and then film the fight. The idea was to create a toddler version of "Boy Fights," (Barry), and so they took two three year old boys and forced them to fight each other while they filmed it with their cell phones. More specifically, two of the workers egged on the boys while the other one filmed the event. The police officers who handled the situation said the resulting video was very hard to watch; at one point, one of the boys ran to one of the women for help, but she simply pushed him back into the fight. At another time, one of the boys could clearly be heard to say he was being pinched, to which one woman replied that the boys should not pinch each other, just punch each other. As a result of the incident, the women were arrested (although they posted bond), and a full investigation is underway. The women are charged with "assault, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangering and conspiracy."

Certainly, this kind of behavior is illegal (hence the charges). However, it also clearly violates the NAEYC Code of Conduct in several places, notably in the first principle, which states the following:

P-1.1-Above all, we shall not harm children. We shall not participate in practices that are emotionally damaging, physically harmful, disrespectful, degrading, dangerous, exploitative, or intimidating to children. This principle has precedence over all others in this Code.

It is important to understand the full meaning of this principle as it relates to this incident. One could argue that these boys were fighting anyway. In fact, let us assume that was the case. Does this allow the daycare workers to get out their cell phones and film the event? Even worse - does it allow the daycare workers to instigate yet another fight in addition to the one that the boys were having anyway, just so they could film them fighting? They might claim that "they did not harm children," stating that the boys were fighting anyway. However, that would be specious, because by filming the event, they participated in it (which is against the principles). Specifically, they participated in practices that were emotionally damaging, physically harmful, degrading, exploitative, and intimidating (to use the language of the code). And so, even if the boys were already fighting - even if they fought all the time outside of the daycare center - the actions of the daycare workers are in direct contradiction to the code of conduct.

As yet, there is no outcome, since this incident just happened. However, the daycare center has had its license suspending pending the investigation, and the women are awaiting trial. Regardless of the outcome for these specific people, it is strongly recommended that the daycare center (should it open up again in the future) install hidden cameras at multiple locations in every room, so that there is nowhere that is not being monitored on a regular basis. Those cameras, moreover, should be monitored regularly, and all staff must be aware of that. It would also be a smart policy to forbid all cell phones and other devices from being on the person of staff members while they are working with the children; there is no need to answer a call while at work, especially when that work involves children. A full training of all staff members in the code of conduct should also take place at least once a year (and definitely upon orientation), and it should be made clear that all workers will be expected to uphold all principles in the code. These things will not stop all future abuse, but they will certainly go a long way in limiting it.


Barry, D.. "Daycare workers arrested for allegedly making a 'Toddler Fights' video."

DeMarche, E.. "Delaware daycare workers accused of running toddler fight club."

NAEYC. "NAEYC code of ethical conduct and statement of commitment."