Lawsuit alleges child abuse, cover-up at Kroc Center in Kapolei

Updated: Jun. 26, 2019 at 6:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The parents of a former preschool student on Oahu have sued the Kroc Center and at least one former teacher at the institution over allegations of child neglect and physical abuse.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Circuit Court, Joan and Mark Megna of Ewa Beach accused the former teacher, Illana Wright, of repeatedly picking up their daughter by the neck and screaming into her ear.

“A teacher witnessed when she had my daughter, my 3-year old daughter by the throat off the ground -- eye level -- screaming at her and dropping her to the ground," said father Mark Megna.

The alleged incidents of abuse occurred over a 10-month period while the Megnas’ daughter was a student in Wright’s preschool class, the lawsuit says.

As an element of their lawsuit, the Megna family included the text of a Child Protective Services investigation, which confirmed abuses had been discovered against at least six other students in Wright’s class.

The Salvation Army said Wright was fired along with a supervisor.

It also said it agreed to pay $10,000 to settle the CPS investigation and donated $15,000 to a state fund for child and spouse abuse.

After the abuses occurred, the parents allege that the Kroc Center’s management failed to immediately report the incidents to CPS officials, as required by law.

Stephen Tannebaum, the Megna’s attorney, said other teachers tried to report the abuses to supervisors as far back as March 2017.

But he alleged that the supervisors did little to address the problem until December 2017 when the teacher took it on their own to report Wright’s behavior to CPS officials.

“What we’re dealing with here is not just a failure by management to address the situation but an active conspiracy by management to cover this up and keep it from parents," said Tannenbaum.

The Salvation Army denied the cover up allegation, saying it only learned of the abuses in December 2017.

“The Salvation Army has an excellent child safety prevention program ... and that program requires mandatory reporting of any suspected child abuse to both governmental officials and to Salvation Army personnel," a Salvation Army spokesman said in an email.

“And all of the teachers at the preschool had been trained on this program.”

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