LOS ANGELES — Preschool students at a head start school in South El Monte thought a teacher was rewarding them with colorful stickers she placed on their bodies, but parents say they were actually mood-calming patches fixed on their children without their consent.
Parents at Options for Learning head start said they noticed behavioral changes in their children over the last several weeks, including erratic mood swings and changes in their sleep pattern, which they believe are caused by the patches.
In a statement, Options for Learning said they met with a parent of a student and fired a school employee in response to the incident.
“The safety and well-being of the children in our programs are at the core of all we do,” the statement said. “Our investigation is ongoing, and an incident report has been submitted to (the California State Community Care Licensing), which will conduct its own investigation. We are reinforcing child safety with all our teachers and classroom staff. We will be meeting with other parents in the class to address their concerns.”
The controversy began Nov. 15 when a grandfather picked up his grandson from the head start school and noticed something on the boy’s back, according to parents who shared details of the incident in a group chat.
The boy’s mother noticed a strong herbal aroma on the patch, and shared a picture of it with the other parents.
Another parent, Stephanie Rodriguez, received the picture in the group chat, and showed the picture to her 4-year-old son Ethan and his face lit up when he recognized it.
“His face was like an addict’s face,” Rodriguez said. “He said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the sticker. That’s the koala sticker.’”
He pointed to his foot and said his teacher would put it there and take it off before the end of the school day.
The California Department of Social Services, the state agency that licenses child care facilities, confirmed they are investigating the South El Monte head start, but could not comment on the ongoing investigation.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it was aware of the parent’s complaints, which have been compiled in a report and assigned to a detective. In a statement, the department said it cannot comment about the investigation.
This was not an isolated incident, according to parents. Their children recognized pictures of the patches when the parents would show them on their phones. Some children even grabbed their parent’s phones and tried to smell the picture, according to Rodriguez.
The specific brand of patch the children recognized, Zen Patch Mood Calming Stickers, are promoted as including essential oils meant to calm children, and the product claims the patches are all-natural. Online advertisement for the patches describe them as “safe, effective and chemical free.” The online reviews are mixed, with some reviewers saying the patches help regulate moods and others calling them a “complete waste of money.”
Fox 11 News first reported on the incident at Options for Learning.
But many parents said they noted red flags leading up to this incident.
Rodriguez said that her son fell at school earlier this year and hit his head, but staff didn’t immediately call her, and instead let him take a nap. When she asked the staff why no one called her they said that a teacher advised against it.
“I said that was the wrong decision,” Rodriguez said.
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