MANASSAS, Va. - A co-worker of two Minnieland Academy staffers charged with abusing children at the center and an investigator described retaliatory and physical abuse of the toddlers they were supposed to care for.
Kierra Nicole Spriggs, 24, and Sarah A. Jordan, 29, arrested in November, appeared in Prince William County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for a preliminary hearing Wednesday.
Spriggs and Jordan had been employees of the Minnieland Academy in Woodbridge. During testimony, a co-worker described a scene of crying, screaming children after they were hit on the hands with a maraca. She said the kids' hands were left "beet red."
That incident and others appeared to be related to disciplinary measures at Minnieland.
An investigator stated they were told one worker stepped on a boy's foot to show what would happen if he did not wear shoes. He also said they were told a child was bitten on the finger by a worker, after that child had bitten someone else. Additionally, police were told of kids being tripped.
Prosecutors said the children involved were between 16 and 24 months old.
The courtroom was tense at times, with a dozen or more parents in attendance. Their reactions to a defense attorney's questioning led to a warning from the Judge D. Scott Bailey, who demanded there be no further comments from the gallery.
The case now goes before a grand jury on April 7. It is possible that further charges could be added at that time.
"The wheels of justice are firmly in motion," said James McCoart III, an attorney representing family members, after the hearing.
In addition to the child cruelty charges, Spriggs and Jordan also face misdemeanor charges of assault and battery.
As WTOP reported earlier, a report from the Virginia Department of Social Services had found two teachers at the Woodbridge Minnieland location routinely engaged in cruel treatment of toddlers in their care, including stepping on their toes and giving full pressure sprays from a water hose.
Police said the abuse happened between January and August of last year.
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