9 Investigates

9 Investigates: DCF, Bright Horizons Child care reach settlement in teacher abuse allegations

BALDWIN PARK, Fla. — The Department of Children and Families has reached a settlement agreement with the Bright Horizons childcare facility in Baldwin Park, 9 Investigates reporter Daralene Jones learned Monday.

The state agency threatened to temporarily suspend Bright Horizons' license in August over allegations a former teacher sexually abused toddlers in his class.

Details of the settlement were released Thursday. Bright Horizons at Baldwin Park has been ordered to pay $700 in fines and be placed on a six-month probation. The settlement means the facility will not be shut down, something DCF was originally requesting.

Two families allege in civil lawsuits that a former teacher sexually abused their children. One mother revealed to 9 Investigates the details prompting her to contact DCF earlier this year.

A DCF investigation determined Bright Horizons failed to perform adequate background screenings on the former teacher, who had a criminal history in another state related to perpetuating a bomb threat and assault and battery. However, the latter charges were dismissed after a two-year diversion program, four months before he was hired at Bright Horizons.

In its appeal of the DCF findings, Bright Horizons argued, in part, that DCF could not establish "clear and convincing evidence that Bright Horizons or its employee committed child abuse," and further, the department  “cannot legally or factually justify suspending Bright Horizons' license based on its own prior statements and findings... noting less than three weeks before serving the Administrative Complaint, the Department renewed Bright Horizons' license...certifying it was in compliance with licensing standards, including those related to background screening and child abuse.”

The former teacher in this case was fired, but could face criminal charges.

Orlando police told 9 Investigates Monday that investigation is ongoing.

Attorneys representing both families in the civil lawsuit against Bright Horizons and the former teacher just requested a long list of evidence it has gathered as part of the case.