A $2.5 million civil lawsuit against Alpharetta daycare, Crème de la Crème, is moving forward, but center owners are denying claims that they were slow to respond to reports of child abuse.
Former Fulton County and television court judge Glenda Hatchett is representing the families of four children mentioned in the lawsuit. The complaint states that management at the Haynes Bridge Road daycare failed to protect those children in the care of a former kindergarten teacher. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution is not including the name of the instructor because she has not been charged criminally.
The lawsuit — which was filed in Fulton County Civil Court in August — alleges that last fall the teacher would lock children in a “jail” — a dark, windowless bathroom in her classroom — for long periods of time with the lights turned off. The students were punished for making mistakes on classwork, and cried and pleaded to come out.
Other students were threatened with “jail” if they attempted to release their classmates, according to the lawsuit. The teacher also encouraged classmates to make fun of another student for soiling themselves, saying “this classroom was not for babies."
“To be locked in a dark bathroom … and to have children cry … is unconscionable, especially when there were tapes of the classroom,” Hatchett said in a telephone interview.
The lawsuit also alleges that although cameras were present in the classroom, Crème de la Crème did not take proper steps to protect the children. Daycare administrators said they were not aware of the teacher's actions until a parent brought the claims to their attention. Parents claim they never received a response from center directors, including chief operating officer Peter Lungo.
The state agency responsible for regulating day care centers investigated the complaints in September 2015. Six days later the teacher was fired.
In a press release sent to the AJC by Creme de la Creme's attorney, Douglas Burrell, Lungo said his organization is confident it took “swift and decisive action to address the matter.”
“Both our internal investigation and the one conducted by the state identified behavior that was inconsistent with our values as an organization and the training that we provide to our staff," Lungo said. "As a result, the teacher’s employment was immediately terminated.”
So far, no criminal charges against the teacher have been filed by the Fulton County District Attorney's office.