CLEVELAND -- Head Start pre-schoolers were exposed to all kinds of hazards including toxic chemicals, an unattended machete, and unsafe playground equipment, according to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The federal report, which was released today, is based on audits of 24 Head Start programs in seven states. It represents only a fraction of Head Start programs nationwide, but investigators say the findings raise red flags about childrens' safety.
The report does not include Ohio, but a Channel 3 News investigation recently found a number of safety violations at Head Start playgrounds in Cleveland.
At the Earl Turner Recreation Center, investigators found metal screws protruding from fence posts.
At Paul Revere Elementary, there was broken glass on the playground and two drainage culverts accessible to children with two feet of standing water.
At Anton Grdina and A.J. Rickoff, investigators found playgrounds with holes three-feet wide.
Jackie Middleton is the CEO of the Council For Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland(CEOGC), which educates about 5000 Head Start pre-schoolers and is responsible for the maintenance of the playgrounds.
Middleton says the playgrounds are now in full compliance. "Those playgrounds have been repaired," said Middleton. Asked why the playgrounds weren't already in good shape, Middleton said "it's because they're located in communities where they can't always be monitored on a daily basis."
The Inspector General's report comes at a time when state senator Nina Turner has asked for a state investigation into questionable spending by CEOGC.