A Boca Raton attorney is suing Bright Horizons Children’s Centers for hiring an employee he claims sexually abused a 3-year-old boy at the preschool’s Baldwin Park location.
The lawsuit, filed June 1, claims the teacher should never have been hired and that a diligent background check would have revealed he was unsafe.
“Schools have to make safety the highest priority,” attorney Jeff Herman, of Herman Law, said. “That means that if you’re hiring somebody, you’re confident they’re safe — there’s no red flags.
“I’ve done over a thousand sexual abuse cases,” he said. “The allegations that are in this complaint are as outrageous as I’ve ever made as far as notice, as far as complaints, as far as warnings that this guy was unsafe.”
The suspected teacher was observed in multiple instances putting children on his lap, as per photos released in a Bright Horizons newsletter. Another teacher reportedly claimed to administration the suspected teacher was engaging in “grooming” behavior — touching a child to gain their trust and prepare them to be molested.
This likely has been happening throughout the past year, Herman said, adding that this suspected teacher was hired back in August 2016.
“We believe it went on for a long period of time,” Herman said. “We believe that there’s multiple instances of abuse, all that happened here at Bright Horizons at Baldwin Park.”
The teacher was also reportedly following dozens of young boy models on Instagram, Herman said.
A criminal background was discovered as well, which included an arrest and conviction for making a bomb threat.
The teacher has since been fired in the wake of two children claiming they were touched inappropriately, prompting an investigation by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The Baldwin Park Bright Horizons director has been put on administrative leave, while police cars and security guards have been stationed at the Bright Horizons location, 1700 Firehouse Lane, for the safety of the children.
Herman said this all could have all been avoided, and that the family of the child wants answers.
“They’re looking for justice,” he said. “They want to give their child a voice.”
Herman said this isn’t the first time a Bright Horizons preschool has been involved in this type of controversy. This is the fifth case of sexual abuse he has taken up against the preschool chain, following three in South Florida and one in Georgia.
There is an ongoing criminal investigation taking place, Herman said.
Bright Horizons released a statement: “We have been working closely with DCF on a situation that was reported to us in May and have been fully supporting DCF in that investigation. We have been communicating with families at the center throughout this process. We have not received the legal complaint that was shared with the news media today and have not been told by any family about the concerns referenced. Neither DCF nor the police have contacted us about this, either.
“These are very serious allegations, and if the police or DCF do investigate them, of course, we will support their efforts fully,” the statement read. “Nothing is more important than getting to the truth for any children involved and their families.”