by: Elsa Gillis Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Venegas Woodard told Channel 9 that she worked alongside Joseph Starnes, the man accused of fondling children, during her year at Primrose School of Ballantyne.
She noticed his strange behavior.
"I feel bad for those kids, I feel sad,” said Woodard. “I would leave out of the classroom sometimes and I would come back in and he would be sitting on the floor, crisscross applesauce, with a child in his lap and his hands back like this, and I thought it was strange. And when I’d go back into the classroom, he’d say, ‘hurry up and get up.’”
Another former employee at the school, who asked to remain anonymous, said she saw similar behavior that made her feel uncomfortable.
"I had witnessed the teacher holding a kindergarten student in his lap, and when I walked in the room, he pushed the kid off of his lap,” she said.
Both former employees said they reported what they saw to leaders at the school.
"I made my concerns known to the school, to the director, and she kind of just looked at me like, 'Well why are you telling me?' So the school didn't do anything,” the anonymous former employee said. "We brought this stuff to their attention. They knew about it."
The anonymous former employee said she even contacted the State Department of Health and Human Services.
“We started looking into the school, and on the state's website, we found more than a dozen past reported violations there dating back to 2014,” she said. “Many of them were violent.”
Among those reported violations were that there was a substantiation of abuse or neglect, a staff member who was suspected of being under the influence while caring for children, corporal punishment was used and a staff member slapped a 1-year-old child in the face.
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