CHARLOTTE, NC ( — Public outrage over a 60-year-old man who allegedly slapped a toddler on a Delta flight has put Slap-a-Tike Day Care Centers on the defensive, with many wondering why the nationwide chain hasn’t raised red flags before.

The "Smack Shack" at the Cleveland Slap-a-Tike Day Care Center.

“As the airplane incident highlights, Americans generally do not approve the slapping of the very young,” said Assistant U.S. attorney Kline Cooper. “It therefore strikes us as odd – pardon the pun – that Slap-a-Tike has managed to open 52 child care centers across the country without anyone thinking, ‘Hang on, they’re called Slap-a-what?’”

Slap-a-Tike CEO Marylee Barnard, however, said that except for the slapping, her Charlotte-based firm has very little in common with Joe Rickey Hundley, the man who witnesses say racially abused and struck a 19-month-old boy on the flight.

“We are fully certified and licensed day care providers, not some drunken idiot acting on a racist, violent impulse,” said Barnard. “If any of our employees strikes a little tike as part of their regular duties at Slap-a-Tike — and for legal reasons I am now advised not to verify that — it would be for purely educational or developmental purposes.”

Just because slapping may be involved, Barnard added, doesn’t mean the two should be considered equally repulsive.

“Both carjackers and valets take your car, but that doesn’t make all valets car thieves,” she said. “It’s all about permission. Like valets, we have permission. It’s in the fine print of our parent agreement.”

Parents whose children attend Slap-a-Tike said they hadn’t noticed before.

“I’ve never read the fine print,” said Lacy Glofeld, 32, as she dropped off 3-year-old Jason at a center outside Charlotte. “And I don’t have time to do it now. I’ve really got to get to work.”

But Charlotte resident Kevin Peterson, father of 2-year-old Chloe, said the airplane incident has made him reconsider.

“I knew the place was called ‘Slap-a-Tike,’ but I guess I thought the hand-print logo was ornamental,” said Peterson, who added that he was now “very seriously” considering wondering about what happens at his five-year-old’s ‘Kick-a-Kindergartner’ after school program.

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