Brae started going to our current daycare/preschool when he was just 3 months old. He went there for nearly 6 years until he graduated last summer.
Sienna started going there at just 3.5 months old. She is now in their preschool program.
And Graem started going there when he was 6 months old, and is in their daycare program.
We have loved our daycare/preschool. It is a small, neighborhood, Spanish-immersion program. It is run by a husband and wife, each native Spanish speakers. She has her Masters’ in Education. The providers there are all native speakers. There is absolutely no technology. The kids sing, dance, play outside, do arts and crafts, and learn Spanish.
The community of parents there is united and strong. There is no fancy bus to take kids on field trips. The parents volunteer. There are no fancy toys to play with; most of them are donated from parents. The summer that Sienna was born, the parents got together to re-vamp the front yard. We showed up early on a Saturday morning, garden tools in tow, and weeded and planted.
And, just this last week, after a particularly tough several days, a group of parents showed up again early on a Saturday morning, care package in hand.
They did that because of an accusation. An ugly, viscous accusation made by a an ex-employee. A disgruntled ex-employee, as it turns out.
To better understand the reason for the care package, I need to rewind to two weeks ago. Tygh came home with the kids one evening, confused. The owners had pulled him aside, and crying and in broken English, told them that someone had filed a complaint with the Department of Human Services. The best that Tygh could make out, someone had accused the male owner of inappropriately touching children. They handed Tygh a piece of paper with the case worker’s name on it. The male owner’s license was being suspended while DHS investigated.
I took the piece of paper from Tygh, and immediately started calling my parent friends. I think I received 60 text messages that night.
I wish I could say that the first thought that popped into my head was, “That’s ridiculous. Who could possibly say such a thing?”, but it wasn’t. And not because I ever believed it to be true, but because when there is an accusation like that, I think the natural reaction from any parent is to just stop. And think. To comb your memory bank for even the smallest indication that maybe, just maybe, could there be even a shred of truth?
And I came up empty. And so did the other parents. We just did. not. believe. it. Not the owner that we knew. Not the owner that our kids adored.
And so, we rallied. We left messages for the case worker that night. She called us back the next morning, overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.
She confirmed (kind of) that the accusation was from an ex-employee. But we had the accusation wrong.
We aren’t sure what happened, but something clearly had gotten lost in translation (perhaps literally) between the case worker and the owners. The accusation had nothing to do with inappropriate touching, at least not of a sexual nature.
The accusation was that the male owner had slapped the forearm of a child, one in particular, in discipline.
We were again taken aback by this accusation. And, again, I think each of the parents stopped. Again, we mined our memory banks for anything we had witnessed, or thought we had witnessed, that would lead us to believe that this accusation was true.
And, again, nothing. We just did not believe it. Our children had never, not once, come home and mentioned that this male owner had ever inappropriately touched them (sexually or in discipline).
Over the next several days, numerous parents were interviewed (including me). The case worker confirmed that not one parent voiced any concern, including the parent of the child who had allegedly been hit.
The case worker said that, unfortunately, these sorts of accusations are made regularly. Each has to be investigated (as well they should be!), and each has to go through the paces. This would be no different. She said that if she continued to find no evidence to support the allegation, it should be resolved in a couple of weeks, and the male owner could return with his license in tact.
But, the damage has been done. You can see it on the faces of the staff, and the owners. They have been destroyed. Their reputation, their life’s work, their intentions, their love for these kids, has all been questioned.
And it makes me sad.
It makes me sad for the ex-employee who felt she needed to do this. It makes me sad for resources that could have been spent on a legitimate claim. It makes me sad for our little community.
I am not naïve. If I thought, for even a moment, that this accusation had merit, we would seriously consider pulling our kids out and going elsewhere.
We do not. That said, I am all in favor of a full investigation that will ultimately clear them. I am all in favor of any kind of education or teaching that may come out of this that will remind and reinforce to the owners and providers that in our daycare/preschool settings, we do not touch kids. Period.
But, I’m still very sad.
These are words you cannot take back. The accusation has been made. And, for some, that will be all they care about and remember.