ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A mother who had a student at Bright Horizons Child Care Center in Baldwin Park said she was in shock to learn a teacher allegedly abused her 4-year-old child.
Channel 9 investigative reporter Daralene Jones first reported Tuesday that a second family filed a civil lawsuit against the school and the former worker, Jayrico Hamilton.
The mother who Eyewitness News is only identifying as “Leslie,” was the first to file a civil case against Bright Horizons Children’s Child Care Center.
“I’m angry at myself,” she told Jones.
Leslie removed both her children from the child care facility this spring.
“I was in a state of shock, and then I went through a stage of denial, in a stage of denial until he (her son) replicated the story to DCF,” she said.
Allegations against Hamilton
Leslie’s oldest son is the reason Eyewitness News isn’t using her last name. He is the 4-year-old "John Doe" mentioned in the first lawsuit that claims Hamilton sexually abused the toddler in class.
“He was waking up every night for a couple of weeks, for about two hours a night, just screaming. I couldn't calm him down. He didn't want a blanket. He didn't want mom to hold him in any sort of way,” she told Jones.
Leslie shared some of the details that prompted her to contact the Department of Children and Families, the state agency regulating children care centers.
“Colors, locations, how he was touched, when he was touched, and I can't even explain the shock,” she said.
Hamilton was hired last September by Bright Horizons. A spokesperson for the facility told Eyewitness News that he cleared a state of Florida background screening. However, four months earlier, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, he had just completed a two-year diversion program related to a case involving two counts of misdemeanor domestic battery and assault on a family member, according to the Virginia commonwealth attorney.
A spokesperson for the Virginia commonwealth attorney told Jones the one victim in the case was 17 years old, and the other 22 at the time.
In Florida, assault or battery on a minor disqualifies someone from employment in child care. Hamilton's charges were dismissed when he finished that diversion program, and DCF isn't legally allowed to share the criminal history from another state.
Hamilton also had been charged in 2012 for perpetrating a bomb threat, but that's not on the list of disqualifications. According to the lawsuit, he was fired from another day care in Virginia over allegations of physical abuse against a child.
Jones asked the family attorney, Jeff Herman, why he believes the child care center is at fault even though Hamilton passed the background screening.
“They're playing fast and loose here with terms. Being eligible doesn't mean you're safe and you're hirable and you should be hired. If someone did a criminal background check on Jayrico right now, he's not been convicted of sexual abuse, not a registered sex offender does that mean he's safe? No, because you have to look further,” Herman questioned.
Hamilton was fired in May and shortly after, the director resigned, according to a Bright Horizons spokesperson.
However Leslie told Eyewitness News that she wants more to be done.
“That's something I would like to get involved in, is some type of statutory reform in this area. This is such a precious, vulnerable life group. I think what happens is people get greedy, (it) becomes about money,” she said.
A Bright Horizons spokesperson told 9 Investigates: “We respect the investigation process and have been working closely with DCF. We intend to continue to do so as we receive their report and review their findings. We have also been communicating directly with our families at the center throughout. We have no information that there are any developments in the investigations being conducted by other authorities. In the meantime, we remain focused on the children and families at the center and our dedicated and hard-working teachers who are maintaining great learning environments and care for children.”
Hamilton is represented by high-profile attorney J. Cheney Mason. 9 Investigates left two messages with his office, but hasn't heard back yet.
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