Action News Investigates: Parents claim local pediatric dentist has hurt children

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A local pediatric dentist is under fire after multiple parents came forward Tuesday, accusing him of hurting their children while in his care.

Dr. Howard Schneider has been practicing in Jacksonville for 49 years and accepts child patients on Medicaid.

On Tuesday, nearly a dozen people began protesting against Schneider outside his south side office, the result of a Facebook page that was established by parents who advise against his work.

After hours of protests, and his staff's refusal to answer Action News' requests for a statement, we found Schneider sitting on the steps of his Riverside home Tuesday evening.

We gave him a chance to respond to mounting criticism and an alleged attack by one of the protesters Tuesday afternoon.

"If I knew," he started, then paused and looked at the camera. "Please don't make a picture, please."

Brandi Motley said her daughter received multiple injuries to her face and neck during an appointment in December. Motley said she wasn't allowed in the room with her daughter while a procedure to pull one of her teeth was ongoing.

"They told me they think that it makes the kids act out worse. That she'd be calmer if the parent wasn't back there, and at first it made sense," Motley told Action News.

Motley said her daughter, 6-year-old Briel, who suffers from epilepsy, was in that room three hours before Motley was called back to the room.

"The nurse lady comes and gets me and she said there had been an incident. I walk back through the doors and turn to the right and there she is, sitting with blood all over her. Her face was all swollen and the lady said they had her on the papoose board and they stepped out for a second to get something, and they came back in and she was face-first on the floor."

Motley said seven of her daughter's teeth had been pulled. She showed Action News paperwork from the emergency room, confirming Motley called the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Children and Families to report the injuries that day.

"The knot on her head, the swelling on her eye, the bumps on her face, her nose was swollen and all her teeth missing," she said.

Sarah Phillips said her 2-year-old son Mason is also a victim.

"Our stories were so much alike it made me sick," she told Action News.

Phillips contacted Motley after seeing the social media post Tuesday. She showed Action News photos after the visit when she said four of her son's teeth were removed instead of two.

Phillips said she contacted DCF and that the investigation is still open.

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The two mothers are now taking action together.

"I want his doors closed," said Phillips. "I don't want any more children to be hurt. That's all."

Action News first attempted to speak with Schneider outside his office Tuesday afternoon, but his staff intervened and refused to let him answer our questions about the allegations against him.

We confirmed JSO officers were there at the time because one of the protesters allegedly attacked Schneider in the parking lot of his office.

Later, as Schneider sat alone outside his home, he told us off-camera that he was caught off guard by the allegations, and that he didn't remember what happened to Motley's or Phillips' children specifically.

Under advice of his attorney, he would make only one statement on the record.

"I had rather talk to my attorney first, and I'll be glad upon his approval to give you anything you want. And I'd like to leave it like that until I talk to him. Alright?" Schneider said.

Both mothers are meeting with an attorney on Wednesday and said they will then join the protest outside Schneider’s office.

We reached out to DCF, and a spokesperson said they cannot by law confirm if Schneider is or has been under investigation. ;Such records, they said, are only made public if a child dies in someone's care.

We also reached out to the Florida Department of Health and received the following statement from a spokesperson:

"At this time Dr. Howard Schneider has a clear and active license as posted on our Medical Quality Assurance site. Further, there are specific statutory provisions in Section 456.073(2), Florida Statutes, that set out the procedures and time frame when a regulatory complaint becomes a public (vs. confidential) record. The statute provides that a complaint and investigative file remains confidential until 10 days after the probable cause panel of the individual's regulatory board votes to find probable cause. If the panel votes not to find probable cause, then the file remains confidential and is never public. When a complaint against a health care practitioner licensed by the department becomes public it will be posted on the department's license verification website: According to this website, Howard S. Schneider (DN3412) has a Clear/Active license with no public complaints or discipline on file."

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A woman, who went to dental school and graduated in 1971, claims to have worked with Dr. Schneider. She told Action News Wednesday morning she was appalled by his actions, claiming to have seen him put them in a device similar to a straitjacket to keep them from flailing, him putting his hands over children’s mouths, plugging noses, and pulled teeth that didn’t need to be removed and saying “Oops.”

In a Southeastern Society of Pediatric Dentistry newsletter published in April 2008, Schneider wrote, "There is change in the 2008 parents in the philosophy of raising their children; There is change in the child who has a mind of his / her own; change in the laws in treatment of the child / changes in public attitude and their concerns and trust in the professions. All the child has to do is tell the parent "they hurt me." Then you spend the next hour explaining why you helped him. The child of today is smart, manipulative, and, spoiled. They know how to work the system. Oh yes!" Click here to read the newsletter.