Blue Springs day care neglected, emotionally abused kids with ‘dark room’ punishment, investigators say

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. -- It's a situation that horrified some children in Jackson County.

A state investigation into a metro church and day care center is complete, and it shows kids were abused by a teacher there. The Missouri Department of Social Services' report said the former director of Timothy Lutheran Daycare used fear to punish kids when they misbehaved.

FOX4 acquired a copy of that report after it was completed last Wednesday.

"It's disturbing. It's hard to process. It's hard to think about your child being in that situation," Peter, the father of two former Timothy Lutheran students, told FOX 4 News on Friday.

Everything parents, such as Peter, are saying about that day care center is now a matter of legal record.

Peter said he removed his kids from the church-run day care when they complained about "the dark room," a small, cramped storage space that was, according to the report, a place where unruly children were sent for hours as punishment.

The report says children complained to their parents they were frightened by the dark solitude of that room, as many kids are afraid of the dark.

"I didn't know anything about it when it happened. We had no idea there was a dark room," Peter said.

One Wednesday, the Missouri Department of Social Services completed its investigation. The agency's final report into this matter accuses the day care's former director, Patricia Koogler, of neglecting and emotionally abusing kids at the day care and says locking them in a "dark room" can cause emotional trauma.

Timothy Lutheran Church in Blue Springs

"Putting a child in a dark closet is not a form of reasonable discipline," the report reads.

"It absolutely makes me mad," Peter said.

Koogler, 57, resigned her position with Timothy Lutheran Daycare shortly after FOX4's initial report aired in late June. FOX4  reached out to her via her residence in Blue Springs, as well as her mobile phone, but our messages weren't returned.

Jane, a former employee, said she saw Koogler mistreat children at the day care on more than one occasion. She said she's troubled by events she saw at the preschool. Jane said she understands what led as many as 20 parents to complain to state regulations, stemming the state's investigation.

"To know that kids were this scared to even go see her -- it infuriates me," Jane said.

"You could hear the children screaming down the hallway, 'I don't want to go. I want my mommy. Don't make me do it.'"

It's because of that alleged abuse, according to Jane and Peter, that many parents are removing their kids from the day care center. Those parents spoke to FOX4 with the understanding their identities would be protected. It's their shared opinion that Timothy Lutheran Daycare needs new leadership.

"You're a church. You're supposed to have different standards and morals than other businesses have, and to lie, not only to the public, but to the parents who, some of whom spent $2,000 per month for their children to be there, is not OK with me," Jane said.

Timothy Lutheran Associate Pastor John Oote read a statement to FOX4, saying the church has cooperated with Child Protective Services in their investigation, and the safety of children remains a top priority.

Rebecca Woelfel, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Social Services, told FOX4 the results of investigations such as this one are typically turned over to local police and prosecutors. Woelfel said it's up to those agencies to decide whether or not charges and arrests are made.

FOX4's calls to the Jackson County prosecutor and Blue Springs police on this topic were not returned.