HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) — Heather Willoughby said she had spent months trying to unburden herself from the drama of “Hot Sauce Summer.” Then, the letter came.
The letter, announcing the permanent closure of the Hoover First United Methodist Church Day School, told parents of children who’d attended the daycare that church officials would “miss being able to provide this ministry.”
Willoughby said the letter is the first direct communication she’s received from the church since her three-year-old daughter confirmed to her months ago that day school staff had used hot sauce to punish young children.
In July, CBS 42 was the first to report the allegations, sharing the experiences of multiple mothers whose children had informed them of the punishment. A pastor at the church later confirmed from the pulpit that hot sauce had been used to punish children “for years, if not decades.” Mothers said they never received a direct apology or admission of guilt from church officials.
“The Hoover First United Methodist Church Administrative Board has decided that the Hoover First UMC Day School will not reopen,” the letter sent to parents earlier this month said in part. “Please find enclosed a check to reimburse your family for your Summer Registration and Supply Fees.”
Willoughby said she had mostly moved past what happened and what she viewed as the church’s problematic response, but the letter brought the experience back to the fore.
“Thanks for the cash scraps,” she said.
What would’ve been better, Willoughby said, is an actual apology or a willingness to take responsibility for what happened and how the church responded — or failed to respond.
“It would have been a heck of a lot less expensive to just apologize,” she said. “I’d be totally fine if I never saw another bottle of Cholula for the rest of my life.”