ODESSA, Fla. (WFLA) — The owner of an Odessa preschool has been arrested on a child abuse charge, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office said Monday that it arrested Rong Lui, 52, Thursday for allegedly being abusive to a child in her care. Lui is known to the school community as Ms. Judy.
Detectives said Liu “forcefully pushed and pulled the head and neck of the victim with her hand” while trying to get the child down for a nap on June 20, 2022.
According to the sheriff’s office, Liu put her legs on top of the child’s body to hold him down while the child cried and flailed his legs.
“It is sickening to hear that the person responsible for dozens of children at daycare would inflict this type of punishment on the vulnerable persons in her care,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said.
Lui is the owner of the Children’s Land of Imagination Academy. According to its website, it is a family-owned company.
“Our philosophy is: We believe that children deserve a safe, caring, challenging, and enriching learning environment where a child can feel valued and enjoy him/herself,” the preschool says on its website.
Kelly Autrey and Kenneth Boggs enrolled their 3-year-old son at the Children’s Land of Imagination Academy in January. Six months later, Autrey said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detectives and the Department of Children and Families called her and named their son as a victim of abuse.
“I was told every time that he would bite, the owner would smack him across the face or in the mouth to reprimand him for the biting and we definitely don’t agree with,” Autrey said.
“Whenever he was corrected for anything, I would tell him no dude you can’t do that; he would then smack himself in the face, throw himself on the ground and start crying,” Boggs said.
His parents said the behavior was learned by the abuse at the hands of Ms. Judy. In late June, Boggs and Autrey said they immediately pulled their son from the pre-school.
“Ms. Judy was laughing,” said Autrey when confronting the owners about the alleged abuse. “She goes, ‘oh my God they said something about child abuse?’ like I had no idea. You had three detectives in the building you had no idea any of this was happening?”
Boggs and Autrey’s son is non-verbal. Boggs said he believed Ms. Judy was targeting kids who couldn’t use their voice to tell what was going on at the school.
“They were holding down an autistic boy, who once again, was not verbal and wasn’t able to tell mommy and daddy afterwards that they were doing this — much like him,” Boggs said. “It makes me feel terrified we can’t protect our children 100% of the time, so we have to and trust those people, and then they violate our trust by targeting children that can’t stand up and speak for themselves. The definition of their job is a caretaker for children, and that’s exactly what they’re not so it’s disturbing.”
“Unfortunately, throughout our investigation, we have learned that she is known to treat her students harshly and roughly,” Chronister said. “Thanks to the hard work, and the persistent efforts by our Special Victims Investigators, they were able to find out the truth behind the accusations reported to us.”
Parents said the abuse was caught on cameras from inside the pre-school. News Channel 8 has requested the video from the Sheriff’s Office.