An unknown number of employees at the nursery in Peseux blew the whistle by informing the child protection services of the inappropriate treatment of children, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.
The allegations include that the children, aged between two and four years old, were slapped, spanked, shouted at and threatened. In addition, the accused are charged with meting out excessive punishments, such as making a child stand in the corner for long periods of time, and making a child walk when he or she is exhausted.
“These acts are unacceptable,” said Christian Fellrath of the Service for the Protection of Adults and Youths.
“We as a supervisory authority can have zero tolerance when it comes to such a professional care facility, to which parents entrust what they hold most dear,” he said.
Pascal Leuthi, spokesman for the Neuchatel police, confirmed on Wednesday that the director had been arrested and that prosecution services have also opened a criminal investigation into one of the employees.
Leuthi is unclear whether the actions constitute child abuse as there have been no assaults reported, and none of the children have any physical marks.
Nevertheless it is feared there will be psychological implications resulting from this treatment.
“I have trouble understanding this kind of mistake in such a professional setting, which is one more of nursing than of education,” child psychiatrist at the University Hospital of Vaud, Alain Herzog, told the newspaper.
The children may develop a fear or phobia of returning to the nursery, or have disrupted sleep and start bed-wetting as a result of the abuse, Herzog said.
Depending on the outcome of the investigations, the nursery may well be closed down, or at least be monitored for a period of time.