Daycare where alleged sex abuse happened cited for several violations

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Channel 9 investigated and discovered that the Ballantyne daycare where a worker is accused of fondling two students has a one-star rating with the state.

Eyewitness News also uncovered more than a dozen state violations since 2014 at Primrose School of Ballantyne.

Channel 9 reported Monday that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police accused Joseph Starnes, a teacher at the private preschool and daycare, of inappropriately touching two boys. Detectives are investigating whether there are other victims.

A former employee of the school told Channel 9 she witnessed inappropriate behavior and told a school supervisor.

“I tried to tell them this a year ago. Like this stuff has been going on and they did nothing about it. It had to take a child to stand up for himself to say, ‘Hey I was touched inappropriately by this teacher,'” Venegas Woodard said.

The daycare’s one-star license is the lowest rating the state can give a child care facility.

“It’s a really nice looking facility and I did not expect to hear that,” said Brandon Bingham, whose child does not attend the school.

It doesn’t appear the state’s rating is posted on the school’s website, and it’s difficult to find on the state’s Department of Health and Human Services website. One section rates the facility “superior” but Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster learned that only applies to a sanitation report.

Foster went through years of records and found that since 2014, state investigators cited Primrose School of Ballantyne during 16 visits. Some visits had multiple violations.

Those violations include:

  • Staff members grabbed children by the arm
  • A child's arm was injured when two staff members changed the child's diaper
  • A staff member was suspected of being under the influence while caring for children
  • On two separate occasions, a staff member slapped a 1-year-old child in the face
  • Children were left unsupervised on the outside playground

Less than a year ago in a special report, Channel 9 questioned DHHS about why daycares with multiple violations are still open. They said corrective actions can be taken and if a center is still open, it’s because it has taken appropriate steps.

The school’s owner, Mary Schroeder, told Channel 9 Tuesday in a statement:

“The safety and security of the children in our care is always our top priority. When an incident occurs that does not meet our standards, we report to and work hand-in-hand with state licensing to take corrective actions.

Primrose Schools has many safety and security policies, including those related to background checks. All employees hired by the Primrose School of Ballantyne undergo the criminal background check process as well as reference checks and working interviews.

We are fully cooperating with authorities as their investigation of Mr. Starnes continues. Moving forward, our focus is on connecting with our families and maintaining the comfort of daily routines for our children and staff.”

Foster asked a spokesperson for DHHS if there is a current investigation into Primrose School of Ballantyne. He said he could not say either way.

Channel 9 uncovered state warnings that shed light on child maltreatment at the school.

Employee Katelyn Forgo was criminally charged with assault on a child under 12, documents said.

Forgo hit a 1-year-old child in the head and there are claims Forgo was asleep in the classroom on more than one occasion, according to the report.

DHHS also said a 1-year-old child's elbow became dislocated while two staff members changed the child's diaper.

In January 2016, DHHS sent Primrose a written warning after investigating child neglect.

The state says in March 2015, staff left a 2-year old unsupervised on a playground.

That happened again the following June with an 18-month-old child.

After both warnings, DHHS required corrective action plans that included:

  • Employee training
  • Revised disciplinary policies
  • Procedures for supervising children on playgrounds and while transitioning from different areas

A parent told Channel 9 that staff members are organizing a parent forum for later this week.

Channel 9 is reaching out to the courts to find out what happened to the criminal charges against Forgo.

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