By NATHAN GREGORY
A child care worker formerly employed at First Baptist Church Creative Learning Center has been released on $10,000 bond after being charged with two counts of felony child abuse.
Starkville Police Department officers arrested Dianna Lynn Covin, 52, of 134 Josey Ave., Wednesday on charges that she intentionally gave muscle relaxants to two infants on May 17.
The infants, who were 7 months and 4 months old at the time of the incident, had to receive emergency medical assistance as a result of ingesting the drugs.
Information contained in two affidavits alleges Covin put portions of the medication Tizanidine directly into the infants mouths “for the express purpose of keeping (them) quiet.”
The Creative Learning Center (CLC) is a full-time child care facility located at First Baptist Church Starkville, licensed by the Mississippi Department of Health.
Information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine describes Tizanidine as a skeletal muscle relaxant that “works by slowing action in the brain and nervous system to allow the muscles to relax.”
CLC Executive Director Karen Graham said Covin’s employment was terminated May 21, three days after she was placed on administrative leave. Graham said Covin has not been on the CLC campus since May 18.
She said she immediately reported the matter to the Mississippi State Department of Health when she was informed of what took place.
MSDH Communications Director Liz Sharlot said she could not comment on the investigation but the department began investigating as soon it was informed.
Graham said Covin had been employed at CLC for almost 10 years. She is scheduled to appear 6 p.m. July 2 in Starkville Municipal Court.
A parent of one of the children, who asked not to be named, said when he picked up his child from day care, he noticed the child was “very limp, had trouble breathing and was taken to the emergency room and subsequently admitted to the hospital overnight.”
“You don’t want to think someone would ever do this with a child, especially someone who deals with children on a daily basis and has for some time,” the parent said. “I am angry about that but relieved that the police have been able to put some charges to this. Most of all, (my family) is thankful it wasn’t worse. First and foremost, we’re thankful our child is still around.”
Graham said the CLC family is “shocked and broken-hearted to learn of the breach of trust by a former employee.”
“We are committed to providing quality care for young children and families in our community, while educating them in a loving Christian environment by qualified well-trained teachers and caregivers,” she said. “Consistent with our established procedures and licensing obligations, we alerted state authorities at the first instant we obtained knowledge of a possible concern, and we immediately removed the former employee from all contact with children at CLC pending a more thorough investigation.
“Since that time, we have combed our records, talked with our staff and terminated the individual involved,” she added. “We are working with authorities in their ongoing investigation of this individual. I have been in touch with each of the families involved to communicate our ongoing actions and support. We hold sacred the health and safety of our children.”
The parent said he was grateful to SPD officials for their help throughout the investigation.
“We are confident in their case and the ability of the justice system to handle it from here,” he said.