Day care to DCF: Teacher who shoved and spanked toddler was “stressed”

A teacher at Kiddie Island Academy seen on video in early October shoving, spanking and pulling a 21-month old child was “stressed” according to a Department of Children and Families report.

The teacher, Diana Varela, is seen on video interacting with the child in a way that DCF characterized as “aggressive, demeaning and intimidating”.

Sierra Bruner asked to view video footage from the daycare after finding a scratch and a blood blister on her daughter Kyra’s lip.

Kyra had only been attending Kiddie Island for two weeks.

Teachers told DCF investigators that the child “cried from the time she was dropped off until she was picked up” and “demanded more attention than other children”.

“At the end of the day my daughter didn’t deserve any of that,” said Bruner, who filed complaints with DCF and the Cape Coral police department.

DCF closed an investigation into Kiddie Island in October, which resulted in several violations.

READ: DCF Report

During their investigation, DCF spoke to Maria Varela the director of the daycare and several teachers but it’s not clear if they ever interviewed Diana Varela, the teacher in the video.

Investigators said Maria Varela told them that Diana was stressed because they were short-staffed.

Bruner claims that’s what the daycare director and teacher told her the day she found out about the incident. She said the teacher was crying and apologizing.

On Friday, Maria Varela had a different version of events when speaking to WINK News reporter Lauren Sweeney by phone.

She claimed she never told DCF the teacher was stressed.

She previously told WINK News she was appealing the violations with DCF and would not comment further until the investigations into the daycare are closed.

The Cape Coral Police is working with the State Attorney’s office to determine if any criminal charges can be filed. DCF has another investigation open into Kiddie Island but won’t say what it’s about.

Diana Varela could not be reached for comment.

Reporter:Lauren Sweeney
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