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Ohio preschool worker encouraged children to fight — then she filmed them, police say

Columbus, Ohio preschool worker Chavay Williams faces 21 charges of child endangerment after police say she encouraged kids to fight each other. She allegedly filmed the fighting and posted it on social media.
Columbus, Ohio preschool worker Chavay Williams faces 21 charges of child endangerment after police say she encouraged kids to fight each other. She allegedly filmed the fighting and posted it on social media. Twitter

Police in Columbus, Ohio say a preschool worker encouraged nearly two dozen children to fight each other on the school’s playground and then posted videos of the kiddie brawling on Snapchat.

Chavay Williams, 30, was charged with 21 counts of child endangerment on Wednesday, according to a police press release.

“None of the children were seriously injured” during the June 14 incident, according to the release, which says Williams “permitted and encouraged 21 children under her supervision at the Playtime Pre-school to engage in physical altercations with each other while on the playground. . . .

“The incident was recorded by the suspect and posted on social media.”

The release says Williams “acted on her own accord” and the school “took immediate action to correct it” when it learned about it. Police says Williams was fired.

According to court records cited by the Columbus Dispatch, Williams posted video of the fighting on Snapchat with captions “like ‘knock out’ with a smiley face emoji, crazy face emojis and boxing glove emojis.” The children were ages 3 to 5, according to the Dispatch.

Someone anonymously sent the video to police, according to WSYX in Columbus.

Court documents say that children were crying in the video and “using a chair to try to escape the playground area while staff recorded the activity without a response,” the Dispatch reported. Williams told police she made the video to show parents how their children act “every day and all the time,” according to the records the Dispatch obtained.

It was really a shock, honestly, to know this happened,” parent Angelyne Ulmer, whose 5-year-old daughter is in Williams’ classroom, said, according to WBNS in Columbus. The station did not say whether Ulmer’s daughter was one of the children involved.

Mom Chaya Porter said the incident didn’t sound like anything Williams would be involved in.

“Knowing her character and how much she pumped goodness into my son, specifically, who was in the classroom,” Porter told the TV station. “I was just like oh my goodness. Like, one bad decision ‘cause it was so out of character.”

Elisabeth Lawson, who owns the preschool, told WSYX that Williams had worked there for six years and that her mother had also worked there but was fired earlier this year for reasons she didn’t disclose.

After her mother was fired, Lawson told the TV station, Williams’ behavior became erratic.

According to its listing on Care.com, the preschool has been in business since 2012. It bills itself as “the largest black-owned preschool in Ohio,” by square footage, and Lawson estimated that 97 percent of the preschoolers live below the poverty line, WSYX reported.

A post on the school’s Facebook page on Wednesday gave parents a heads-up before news broke about charges being filed against Williams.

“We are an excellent center and have nothing to hide,” the post said. “Our parents and staff believe in us and work hard to educate the children and keep them safe. The community still continues to support Playtime Preschool.

“Black owned businesses have a harder time becoming and staying successful. I asked the news how come the(y) never responded to my mu(l)tiple media releases about community clothing drives and community baby showers and other events my center hosts on the regular?!?! They only seem to show up at black owned businesses when it’s something wrong.”

Williams is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 23, according to WBNS. The maximum sentence on each charge of child endangerment is six months in jail, according to the Dispatch.

A Kansas City effort to make pre-kindergarten education available to all families can learn a lot from the struggles and triumphs in Tulsa's hard road to preschool for all.

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