CRANFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Two New Jersey women faced charges Monday for allegedly staging a “fight club” among boys and girls at a day care center, Union County prosecutors said.
As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, investigators said the former day care workers – Erica Kenny, 22, of Cranford, and Chanese White, 28, of Roselle – referenced the movie “Fight Club” as they encouraged preschoolers and kindergartners to fight each other on the playground at Lightbridge Academy in Cranford last month.
“About a dozen children — boys and girls between the ages 4 and 6 — just fighting; throwing each other to the ground; hitting each other,” said Union County Prosecutor Grace Park.
Kenny allegedly shot video of the fights and sent them to a group of people on the app Snapchat, prosecutors said.
“Most parents would be astonished by the behavior,” Acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith.
The videos show about a dozen boys and girls shoving each other to the ground and trying to hit each other, according to prosecutors. The charges stem from Aug. 13, but investigators are looking into whether the fights were ongoing.
The Snapchat videos only last 10 seconds and then disappear, but investigators were able to find the video after someone recorded it.
“We don’t believe there were any serious injuries at this point, but we are still investigating the case,” Park said.
Prosecutors said the former workers staged the fights for pure pleasure. Neighbors of defendant White were stunned.
“It’s unbelievable – God, it’s unbelievable,” said the Rev. James Smith.
“She was very nice, but you don’t really know anybody, really,” said neighbor Betty Farinelli.
The two women have been fired.
“As parents and caregivers, we are shocked and saddened by this isolated incident and we have assisted the prosecutor’s office from the start of its investigation into this matter,” Lightbridge Academy said in a statement. “While no children were physically harmed during this incident, we have a zero tolerance policy for anyone who acts in conflict with the core value of Lightbridge Academy – the safety and well-being of children.”
Sloan asked daycare vice president Jaclyn Falzarano how no one saw the alleged staged fights. Falzarano said the focus was on ensuring safety.
“Again, what we really would like to focus on at this point is that all of the children are safe. That is our number one priority,” Falzarano said in response to the question. “We’ve actually been in constant communication with our parents to let them know that we are here to fully support the care and nurturing education of their children.”
Dolores Tomace workers at another day care, where some of the kids from Lightbridge go to use the gym.
“The children come in and hug me, and I love them. And I would never think of doing anything bad to them, ever!” Tomace said. “They’re mine. For all intents and purposes, they’re all mine.”
Kenny and White are accused of child abuse. Kenny also faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child.
White faces up to 18 months in prison. Kenny could get up to five years.
Anyone with any additional information is asked to call prosecutors at (908) 527-4696.