A mother in Arkansas picked her son up from daycare early after the center called to say he wouldn’t stop throwing up. Since he was healthy when she dropped him off, she couldn’t understand what could have happened in just a few short hours of him being there.

Then, he told her what the caretaker had put in his mouth that made him sick. Melaina Whitley entrusted her toddler to Friendship Pediatric Services in the town of Bryant. She thought the daycare was a perfect fit for her 4-year-old who needed extra help with speech therapy since the center caters to kids with special needs.

She didn’t know one employee’s little secret until her son got sick and later said two words that Melania didn’t think he knew the meaning of.

“I thought maybe just like a stomach virus or something, but it only lasted about a day,” Melaina told KATV after her son was profusely vomiting last month. However, his behavior was off. When she asked him about his day, he admitted to being “punished” for hitting another kid at daycare.

The boy kept repeating “hot sauce” which was strange to the mother since he didn’t know the word, and it is not a condiment they’ve ever talked about. Asking the boy about what “hot sauce” meant, thinking it was code for something else, he explained that’s what his teacher had forced him to eat as punishment for his bad behavior.

This was particularly enraging to the mother since the daycare is specifically for kids with special needs and employees should know that hot sauce isn’t an appropriate punishment. She confronted the teacher about the issue but apparently didn’t get the response she was hoping for and called the police.

According to the daycare’s director, Karla Curry, the teacher willingly admitted to giving the boy hot sauce. The teacher defended her choice of discipline by saying it was a common method in her culture. However, police disagree, saying that the only approved punishment for daycares is time out.

As for now, authorities will not confirm if there is a child maltreatment investigation underway, but Melaina says it’s been a month since her son came home with the burning hot sauce stomach and the employee who gave it to him is still employed there. “They should at least fire her I think. Just anything, just something at all. I know for a fact she still works there,” the upset mother told the news station.

Friendship Pediatric Services released a statement saying that they will put “measures designed to be certain” in place so that dangerous punishments are no longer implemented. The director claims she had no knowledge this practice was happening under her roof, or if other kids were harmed before the teacher’s disturbing “discipline” was brought to her attention. As the person running the daycare and responsible for what happens there, it’s unacceptable to not know what’s occurring on her watch.

While a drop of hot sauce on a child’s tongue isn’t necessarily abusive and kids certainly need discipline in their lives, it’s not an acceptable punishment for a child with special needs, given to them by a paid employee and not the child’s parent who disapproves of it. Bravo to this child for speaking up about what happened so his mom could put an end to an inappropriate disciplinary action that has no place at a special needs daycare.