Palo Alto

Parent Claims After School Program Director Put Son in Chokehold

Palo Alto police are also investigating the alleged incident.

The Department of Child Protective Services is investigating a parent's claim that her child was physically abused at an after school program in the Peninsula.

Angela Dillingham pulled her kids out of the El Carmelo Kids Club after she said her 6-year-old son, Kyler, came home terrified. The boy claims Camp Director David Higareda put him in a chokehold, according to Dillingham.

"His behavior drastically changed, and he said 'I don't want to be there because the other teachers were not helping me when he was putting me in a headlock. I don't want to be there anymore,'" Dillingham said.

In December, Dillingham said her eldest son had a similar issue with the same instructor.

"He told me David picked him up, slammed him to the ground and hit his head," she said.

Dillingham said she reported the problem to the Palo Alto Community Child Care, or PACCC, which runs the kids club. Soon after social services opened an investigation. Last month, social services cited the kids club for violating a child's personal rights and said a staff member verbally harassed the children.

"My boys would come home and tell me that he would call them sissies and girls," Dillingham said.

According to statement in the CPS report, the director described the body slam incident, saying he lost his footing while twirling a child and fell to the ground. CPS also said all staff have been trained on how to safely interact with children.

On Monday, PACCC released a statement saying they cannot comment on personnel matter.

"PACCC disagrees with the characterization of the incidents and is considering legal options," the statement said.

According to social services, the staff member involved in the incident has been removed. But Higareda is still named as director on the PACCC website.

"I think it's a matter of time before another child get's extremely hurt or something terrible happens," Dillingham said.

Palo Alto police also said they are investigating, but so far no charges have been filed against the director.

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