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Day care investigated over frigid fire drill

National Post and other newspapers, CanWest News Service, January 31, 2004

 CALGARY - A Calgary day-care centre has been investigated by Child and Family Services after a fire drill sent children outside with no shoes in -30 C weather with a high wind chill.

"We have confirmed that an incident took place that breached a number of regulations," said Tom Rosettis, regional manager of Child and Family Services.

Rosettis said up to 25 children were brought outside for two to five minutes at the Treehouse Child Development Centre in Huntington Hills on Monday. "Many were without proper clothing and many had no shoes or socks on," Rosettis said.

He said the youngest child involved was five years old and most of the children were between the ages of six and eight. He said the incident was not part of a regular drill.

"This was not a routine fire drill, it was an inappropriate form of discipline," Rosettis said, calling the incident "humiliating and unnecessary."

Child and Family Services reportedly became involved after at least one parent contacted the media.

Child and Family Services will meet with the day-care operator next week to announce what action will be taken. Penalties could range from a warning letter to revoking its licence.

"There have been no cases of frostbite or sickness," said Tahani Mortuza, daughter of the centre's owners. "I think they were outside, at the longest, for three seconds."

The children were escorted outside the building and kept near the doors until the last child exited, at which time all of the children re-entered the centre, she said, adding the fire drill was not a disciplinary measure and was a required monthly drill.

"We're not here to discipline. We do not discipline the children," she said.

Mortuza said 15 or 16 children were involved, and admitted some of the children were not wearing shoes. "No one was barefoot. Some kids just had socks on." She said no children have been withdrawn from the centre, including the child of one parent who yelled at the day-care owners after the incident.

Copyright 2004 CanWest News Service