A day care center where an infant died in August is in limbo as owners await results of a state investigation and a Jan. 18 hearing on whether they can keep a permit to operate.

Houston attorney Terry Fitzgerald, representing Cory and Summer Bullock, who own Kiddie Academy of League City East, 2010 E. League City Parkway, on Thursday declined to comment about specifics of the case, but cited a lawsuit he filed claiming the state violated Bullock’s due process rights by demanding they cease operations.

The day care, which received a full permit in June 2009, has come under heavy scrutiny since 4-month-old Skylar McNeel died Aug. 27.

Jared and Lindsey McNeel filed a lawsuit against Kiddie Academy International and Bullock’s Bright Beginnings LLC, asserting negligence allowed their daughter to smother and that center operators had attempted to deceive them and state investigators with false and misleading information.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission on Jan. 4 notified the Bullocks of plans to revoke their permit because of 26 deficiencies — 15 of which were deemed high-risk violations — found during inspections and investigations between January 2016 and December 2018, according to a letter sent by Caressa King, a child-care licensing inspector.

Those deficiencies include an inability to follow safe sleeping practices and other systemic issues, the letter asserts.

But the Bullocks’ Jan. 7 lawsuit asserts that 22 of the 26 cited deficiencies were related to the child’s death, and that numerous reviews over the years found no significant problems at the center.

The owners also had replaced the center director and all four employees who had been supervising its infant room, the lawsuit asserts.

But state investigators determined the operators continued to follow unsafe practices and created an environment that poses an immediate risk to the health and safety of children, said John Reynolds, spokesman for the commission.

Despite the commission’s findings, the day care center continues to operate for the time being, Fitzgerald said. That’s because of the lawsuit he filed requesting a permanent injunction to have the permit to care for children reinstated.

The state violated the Bullock’s right to due process when the commission scheduled an administrative review for this month, but canceled the review at the last minute and demanded the center cease operating, the lawsuit asserts.

A hearing in that case is tentatively set for Jan. 18, Reynolds said.

But as all parties await the conclusion of the legal dispute, state officials also expect to receive results of a Department of Family and Protective Services abuse and neglect investigation sometime in the next week or two, said Tiffani Butler, spokeswoman for the department.

The state has not revoked the permit for a licensed center in Galveston County since 2015, according to records.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com



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