ROSWELL, Ga. — A local daycare has come under fire after a photo was posted that purported to show teachers feeding White pre-schoolers before Black children in the same class.
The Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy at 200 Pine Grove Road in Roswell, became embroiled in controversy when a parent shared a photo on social media and accused staff of skipping over African-American students during chow time.
The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, or DECAL, launched an investigation into the situation after receiving complaints, agency spokesman Reg Griffin announced April 12. The department will look into allegations that the daycare “withheld feeding” the children, a violation of state regulations for child learning centers.
The backlash prompted Kids ‘R’ Kids to drop the child care facility from its roster of franchises. That came after company officials initially said the uproar was a casualty of “cancel culture,” according to news reports.
“I wish that everybody would be able to see the video in entirety first and not just a snapshot,” Kids ‘R’ Kids President and CEO David Vinson told CBS News 46 one day after the image caused outrage. “Perception is unfortunately reality, and with the cancel culture, unfortunately, it’s the perception.”
Later the same day, Vinson called the video “disturbing” and announced that Kids ‘R’ Kids was immediately terminating its contract and branding with the Roswell daycare.
“We apologize to the family, the community and all of those impacted by this situation and will use this as a learning tool to remind our Kids ‘R’ Kids staff on the importance of diversity and inclusivity,” he said in a statement.
The parking lot at the Roswell school was empty the afternoon of April 15, and the Kids ‘R’ Kids logo had been removed from the roadside sign at the front of the property.
There was no activity inside the business, which appeared to be closed. Multiple calls went unanswered and were routed to a voice mailbox that was full.
Kids ‘R’ Kids is a Duluth-based powerhouse in the daycare industry with hundreds of locations in 18 states. The company has 33 learning academies in Georgia, including locations in Milton, Johns Creek, Cumming and Alpharetta. The shuttered daycare was one of two Roswell locations. The other location at Sandy Plains Road remains open.
The saga began with a parent grew upset by what he saw while watching a livestream of his child’s classroom during lunch April 7. Adryan McCauley, a Sandy Springs man with a 2-year-old daughter enrolled in the academy, shared on Instagram a screenshot he captured from the classroom feed. The image showed seven White children sitting at tables with plates of food, while three Black students at the same tables waited with no plates. McCauley alleged that the White children were being served before the Black ones and expressed his disgust on social media.
“This is truly unbelievable. You better know this won’t be the last time you hear from me on this,” McCauley wrote. “Why does every white kid have their food? Not one black child has food in front of them!”
The photo triggered a firestorm of outrage. By April 8, the backlash had spurred protestors to the Historic Roswell Kids ‘R’ Kids location. Roswell police were called to the daycare that afternoon for a dispute between staff members and a woman who claimed she wasn’t able to enroll her child because the daycare “was not accepting African children at this time.”
The 23-year-old Black woman, Shakiya Samuels, told police she saw the photo McCauley posted online and thought it was wrong. She claimed she called the Kids ‘R’ Kids and attempted to enroll her child, but everyone was rude to her and she couldn’t get through to corporate offices.
Ermine Gillespie, 51, the academy’s owner, said the daycare had been receiving phone calls all day from people threatening to show up to the property to protest.
Gillespie claimed she’d never seen the woman before she came to the daycare that afternoon yelling at employees through the door. Gillespie claimed she tried but could not reason with the woman. She said she worried more protestors would descend upon the academy, and she asked Samuels to leave. Samuels agreed to leave but vowed to return with an attorney and private investigator, according to the police report.
The fervor spread to the other Roswell daycare, compelling its owner Sue Boyle, to write a statement distancing her Sandy Plains Road location from the one in Historic Roswell.
“It came to our attention that some very ugly photos and videos were released to social media that were taken from another Kids 'R' Kids location,” she stated. “We want to be very clear that this was not our school, but another location in Roswell – Historic Roswell. We would never single out anyone according to their race, and we treat everyone equally, with love and respect.”