Deputies arrested a former preschool teacher at a Royal Palm Beach preschool Wednesday following accusations the teacher used excessive force to feed a child, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report.
Piedad Meza Cruz, 46, is facing is facing child abuse charges after a mother reported fingerprint-shaped bruises on her 2-year-old’s face in July 2017.
A surveillance camera in the classroom at The King's Academy captured Meza Cruz “pushing the child’s head back...to force food into the child’s mouth at least twice,” the report states.
WPTV first reported on the investigation in October. At the time, the school's president denied the allegations and said the teacher was helping the student because she was choking by sticking her fingers inside the child's mouth to pull food out.
The school said it terminated Meza Cruz because the interaction was not in line with school safety and security standards.
DCF began the investigation after allegation arose that on July 27 “the teacher grabbed the child by the cheeks and squeezed when she was trying to get the child to eat,” court records show.
Another teacher in the room told deputies that the child was choking and Meza Cruz tried to help get the food out. She said she heard Meza Cruz yelling “Open! Open!”
The second teacher said she saw Meza Cruz with her hand around the girl’s face, squeezing it. A third teacher came into the room and asked if everything was all right because the girl was crying so loudly.
The director of the school said she viewed the footage which showed a different story.
Meza Cruz does not have a history of violent interactions, the report states. She was released from the Palm Beach County Jail on March 14 on $3,000 bond.