Local preschool employee seen holding child by the neck

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — A pre-school has volunteered to give up their license following several complaints from parents and other child care providers.

Bright Beginnings Preschool, at 2306 SW D Street in Bentonville, is being investigated by DHS. It is owned by Cathy Casto.

Several parents have reported Casto has behaved inappropriately toward children in her care and employees. Parents have reported seeing Casto carrying a toddler by her neck.

Department of Human Services investigators said they will be offering to help families affiliated with the preschool find new programs.

DHS Spokesperson Marci Manley said investigators with DHS had been looking into this matter and a “corrective action plan” was established.

According to the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education through DHS, at least three prior complaints have been filed in 2019 against the preschool:

  • April 15 and April 11: Reports were filed regarding unsupervised children. The pre-school was cited.
  • February 14: A report was filed regarding inadequate usable floor space required for indoor activities. The pre-school was cited.

The pre-school has been cited for violations several times in addition to the April violations during 2019:

  • June 7: A child’s injuries weren’t reported within one day to parents and/or medical personnel
  • February 22: Children were left unsupervised
  • Dec. 20: Children were left unsupervised

According to DHS, there were six violations cited June 6, 2018.

The child’s father, Johnny Still, says he watched the security footage with investigators and was furious at what he saw.

“I was horrified,” Still said. “I hate that it happened, and if this has been going on for some time, then I’m glad it’s being stopped.”

Other parents who sent their children to this preschool say they are disturbed, upset, and calling for an explanation.

“There is always two sides to every story and always more to the story that what appears to the eye. But I just knew the photo needed to be explained. I was disturbed and very concerned since our son goes to Bright Beginnings. I just hoped it would be fully investigated, which it appeared was the case,” says parent Ryan Cooper.

A former employee who asked to remain anonymous, says while she’s glad this incident is being investigated, the burden is falling on families who now need to find a new school.

“It’s sad that it has to come down to parents and children and employees getting the back end of it all,” she said. “A lot of parents were messaging me saying, ‘be honest do you think she ever did that to my kids?’”

Cooper adds, “Parents are extremely angry and upset. One parent stated she was a single mother and had no idea what she was going to do for her daughter’s daycare needs for the foreseeable future. Another parent was not aware of the photo and had no idea why Bright Beginnings was closing, but also stated she had no idea what she was going to do with her son for the foreseeable future. If you have young children in Bentonville, you’re well aware of how hard it is to get enrolled in a new preschool. I feel extremely sad for the parents who did not have a ‘Plan B’ lined up. You always hope something like this does not happen. However, as a parent, you also don’t want to your child(ren) attending a preschool with that kind of behavior taking place.”

Bright Beginnings Preschool Inc. has a capacity of up to 123 children. Ages range from three-weeks to five years, according to DHS.

The motto of the preschool is “every child deserves our best”.

KNWA reached out to Bright Beginnings Preschool and Cathy Casto requesting a comment several times, but was declined.

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