LINN — An Osage County childcare facility stands accused of distributing medicated substances to children, some allegedly too young to chew food, according to new documents from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, obtained by KRCG 13.
Last week, DESE suspended the operating license of the Busy Bee Learning Academy in Linn, MO, following the allegations and an ensuing investigation. The Osage County Sheriff's Department is conducting its own separate investigation into possible criminal charges.
The letter from DESE is addressed to Tonya Newbound, the reported owner of the Busy Bee Learning Academy, informing her of the suspension of the facility's license, after DESE's investigation, "that determined that you and your staff administer unknown medications to children in your care to calm them at naptime. These actions demonstrate that you, Tonya Newbound... are unwilling or unable to provide a safe environment for children."
According to the letter, Newbound and the Busy Bee Learning Academy were licensed in August 2009, with the most recent license allotting care for 73 children between the ages of one-month to 13 years old.
DESE reportedly was notified on March 24 of an allegation that Newbound was giving "gummies at naptime for the children that can chew them and giving a powder in the milk of children that can't chew."
Two investigators went to Busy Bee Learning Academy on Wednesday, March 30, where they found "three mounds of gummies" in the facility's kitchen, within reach of the children, according to the document.
The two investigators, then, allegedly went to question several of the daycare facility workers, one of whom refused to answer, reportedly violating the state's childcare guidelines.
One caregiver allegedly said Newbound "told her to give the gummies to the kids every day." Another said Newbound "told her the gummies were for calming the children down."
The two investigators then sat down with Newbound, according to the document, who told them the gummies were "herbal supplements" that she said is supposed to help the children sleep. She also told the investigators she had not talked to parents about the gummies, nor did she have authorization to give medication to kids.
At one point, the document said Newbound "doesn't know what kind or what brand of gummy she is giving the children." The investigators, allegedly, asked Newbound to look up what brand the gummies were. Newbound gave three similar treatments: Equate Children's Black Elderberry Gummies; Chapter One Magnesium Men, Women, & Kids Gummies; and Vicks ZzzQuil Pure Zzzs Restorative Herbal Sleep.
Newbound said those three medications "are not exactly what she is giving the children" but similar to her own treatment, according to the document.
"She does not know what exactly she is giving the children," the investigation reads. "She is giving them whatever gummy she can find to calm them down at nap time."
"I must be ignorant," Newbound allegedly said, according to the investigation, "I thought these things were just like candy."
Another DESE investigator allegedly spoke with a Walgreens pharmacist in Linn, who said she had spoken with a parent on Thursday, March 24, whose four-year-old-son was a Busy Bee Learning Academy student.
The boy told the pharmacist and his mother "they have to take a gummy bear every day at daycare and if they don't take a nap, they get powder on their tongue and then if they still don't nap, they have to sit in the closet until naptime is over," the document said.
The boy and his mother had brought the gummy to the pharmacy, where the gummy was allegedly identified by two different pharmacists as "a 5 milligram melatonin gummy."
Another parent reportedly told investigators her one year old child was being given "a melatonin gummy at naptime." She told the investigators when she had brought the concern to Newbound, the school's owner "got irritated and walked away from her."
The document alleges another parent said her 14-month-old child was not given the gummy because of the choking hazard but was instead given a "powder," made in Newbound's home. She alleged Newbound "would put two tablets in water, let them dissolve, and then put this in the children's milk."
That parent, also a caregiver at Busy Bee Learning Academy, refuted the allegation of children being put in a closet for not sleeping during nap time.
The ten-page document then walks through each substance alleged to have been given by Newbound (melatonin, magnesium, and elderberry) and the potential damage they can do to children when given without regulation. The document goes lists several code violations for the school, based on DESE's investigation.
Busy Bee Learning Academy told KRCG 13 the school plans to appeal the suspension. They have ten days to do so under DESE guidelines. At this time, no criminal charges have been brought forward, though the Osage County Sheriff's Department is investigating.
A KRCG 13 reporter also noticed some children inside the Busy Bee Learning Academy facility on Monday, after the school's license suspension. A DESE official told KRCG 13 that any facility needs a state license to provide child care to more than six children.