By Lisa Roberson and Brad Dicken
ELYRIA — In the wake of allegations of children being sexually abused by a former staff member, there were fewer kids than normal checking in Monday at ABC Kidz Child Care on North Abbe Road.
For those who remained, it was a tough drop-off.
Tabitha Crabtree, the mother of a 3-year-old who attends the school, said while there are normally 12 youngsters in her daughter’s classroom, but there were just three in attendance Monday.
“It was empty today, and I know it sucks for them because their enrollment was really high,” Crabtree said.
Heather Koon, a 25-year-old ex-employee, was arrested Friday on two counts of rape after Lorain County Sheriff’s deputies discovered images they contend show her sexually abusing a 1-year-old child and a 2-year-old child. She is now jailed in lieu of a $2 million bond.
ABC Kidz attorney Carlos Johnson said he believes in the end most parents will stick with the day care, but the allegations have had an effect.
On Monday, attendance at the day care was just a fraction of what it normally is on any given day, he said. But the center is determined not to close.
“Everyone has that in the back of their minds,” Johnson said. “Day cares are there to serve families and to close a day care center puts a lot of parents in a difficult position because it means finding other arrangements for their children so they can go to work and attend school.”
Until she left the center in March, Koon taught preschool age children in the “Red Room,” although she also served as a “floater” filling in for other teachers and sometimes working early morning weekend shifts, the mother of the 2-year-old victim said.
The mother said she believes the allegations against Koon explain why her daughter had such a hard time going into the “Red Room” at the day care center in June.
She said her daughter also suffered from night terrors, but she just thought it was part of her daughter having difficulty leaving her old class behind.
The mother said she suspects that the alleged rapes took place in the “Red Room” or its attached bathroom.
“Now everything makes sense why my daughter was terrified to go to day care,” she said.
The mother isn’t the only parent whose child appeared to be afraid to go into Koon’s classroom.
Koon also taught Crabtree’s daughter earlier in the year, and Crabtree remembers her daughter became clingy and crying at the door of the classroom.
Staying or leaving
Crabtree plans to speak with a child advocate or detective just to be sure nothing happened to her daughter. But she is sure of one thing — she will continue to support ABC Kidz.
“I am going to stand by the day care center,” she said. “The other workers don’t deserve this. They do their jobs the way they’re supposed to. I understand it was one person — not the whole center. I think it’s a great day care and I’m going to continue to take my kids there.”
The mother of the victim said she has pulled her daughters out of ABC Kidz and won’t be going back, not only because of the allegations against Koon, but because of how she said the day care handled the situation.
She said she received a call from the school Friday telling her that her daughter had been the victim of an assault.
The school never provided details, the mother said, and the owner told her not to discuss the allegations with anyone, including police and other parents, many of whom ended up learning about the accusations against Koon when the news broke over the weekend.
“I don’t think she’s handling it the right way,” the mother said. “I believe she should have informed every parent.”
The mother of the 2-year-old victim also thinks that there needs to be a closer review of how the school dealt with the allegations against Koon.
“I really want the day care to be accountable for this also,” the mother said.
Although the Koon case appears to be the first time a staff member has been accused of sexual impropriety, it’s not the first time problems have been documented at ABC Kidz.
The state-licensed facility has been inspected by the state twice this year — both unannounced visits in March and April.
Ben Johnson, deputy of communications for Ohio Job and Family Services and no relation to Carlos Johnson, said the incident will result in another onsite inspection.
“We are coordinating our schedule with Lorain County Children Services,” he said. “We do not want to interfere with their work.”
During each previous inspection, the center was out of compliance with a number of state standards but has since performed corrective action leaving their license intact.
In March, the inspection noted concerns about having toddlers in an area that was not approved by the state, too many toddlers in a room at one time, trash in the outdoor play area, inadequate fall surfaces in playgrounds, using a space heater in an office, inaccurate attendance records, a choking hazard in a crib and issues with records pertaining to staff education, background checks and medical health.
During the April return visit, a caseworker noted stacked chairs in a classroom that posed a climbing danger to children, a preschool classroom in disarray with 21 children in a small, crowded room and inadequate sleeping arrangements in the infant room.
The most recent inspection report also noted problems with staffing levels.
“During the inspection, a ratio of 1 childcare staff member(s) for 7 children was observed for the mixed age group, including an infant 17-months-old, when the staff mistakeningly (sic) thought the child was 18-months-old,” the report said. “Additional childcare staff members must be hired or current childcare staff members must be rescheduled to maintain compliance.”