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A Pre-Schooler Pulled Down Another Kid’s Pants. Now The Adults in Charge are On Trial

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Read Time: 5 minutes

Two Colorado child care workers will go on trial this June for presiding over a day care center where a 5-year-old pulled down a 3-year-old’s pants. Twice.

Amy Lovato and Roberta Rodriguez of The Schoolhouse day care center in Poncha Springs face criminal charges for not reporting this to the authorities quickly enough, and for putting the children in danger.

Let me state clearly here that I am not in favor of kids pulling down each other pants. (A boy on the playground lifted up my dress in first grade and I still remember it!) What I am in favor of is not turning a pre-school incident into, literally, a criminal case.

Nor am I in favor of wasting time and money on child endangerment cases that don’t really involve child endangerment. Let’s save our time and resources for kids in true danger.

The assumption of fragility.

Finally, I also don’t want to treat kids as if they have no capacity for resilience. Like I said: I remember my humiliation on the playground decades later. But a bad experience does not mean a bad life. Acting as if it does undermines our ability to give kids ANY independence, for fear that ANY disappointment, frustration, or humiliation means they will never recover.

(And finally finally, bureaucrats demanding that the rest of us observe the letter of the law with zero humanity or discretion? They drive me nuts. too. I guess a lot of things drive me nuts.)

Anyway, here’s what went down:

We are here because a pre-schooler acted like a pre-schooler.

“Let this fact not be obscured: We are here because one preschooler pulled down another preschooler’s pants,” Jason Flores-Williams, Lovato’s attorney, told 11th Judicial District Judge Brian Green last week, asking him to dismiss the charges.

The judge refused. “This is the perfect case for the jury to hear,” he told the courtroom packed with school parents who came to support Lovato and Rodriguez, according to The Colorado Sun.

The case against Lovato and Rodriguez seems to involve four charges. I say “seems to” because even the judge found the case so muddled that he instructed the prosecutors to present it more cogently.

The facts of the case:

No one disputes that on January 16, Lovato was filling in as a classroom teacher because the center was short-staffed. When one of the kids wet their pants, Lovato left the classroom for between 3 and 5 minutes to clean the kid and deposit the wet clothes in the laundry. When she returned, she saw the 5-year-old “crouched over” a 3-year-old who later told Lovato that the boy had tried to pull her pants down and touch her butt.

The next day, when Lovato went into the center’s bathroom, she found three kids there, including a girl with her pants down and the same boy. He was touching her butt.

The school sprang into action. It called the parents involved. It planned an all-school meeting on the topic of touching. Rodriguez called the Chaffee County Early Childhood Council to find out what else she should be doing. She reported the pants incidents to the child welfare department, and the kids-briefly-in-a-room-without-a-teacher incident to the state licensing office.

“Come get your kids!” Terrified parents raced over.

But as the toddlers themselves discovered, sometimes there is just no way to cover your butt. The authorities shut down the day care center midday on January 24, calling parents to immediately come pick up their kids. Terrified moms and dads raced over to find six armed deputies and a slew of cop cars.

“When they realized their children were safe, they wondered if they had been molested,” reported The Colorado Sun. “Neither the sheriff’s deputies or Chaffee County child welfare authorities who joined them in the raid…were providing information.”

It was only two days later, during a meeting at the sheriff’s office, that the parents learned what had happened.

The problem with mandatory reporting.

In summary, the potential wrongdoing seems to involve not reporting the incidents immediately enough—these were officially reported to the authorities about three days later—and leaving the kids unsupervised for the briefest of moments.

The defense attorneys argued that the question of how quickly a school’s mandatory reporters must report an incident of abuse is vague. So, it seems, is the definition of abuse. And so is whether leaving the room to clean off a pee-soaked kid constitutes neglect.

As an aside, I must mention that once I was at a conference of afterschool care providers, in California. Two women who worked at a program told me that their child-to-caregiver ratio is 1:11. Together they were in charge of 20 kids. So when one kid needed to go to the bathroom, one teacher would take eight other kids with her, to guarantee that the teacher in the classroom would not be out of the mandated 1:11 ratio compliance should a state inspector drop by.

When a system demands that kind of inflexible compliance, we are begging thinking, caring human beings to turn off their common sense.

A system that rewards waste & inhumanity.

“In some ways, this perfectly illustrates a system we set up that winds up leaving nothing but trauma and harm in its wake,’” says Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. “An awful lot of time has gone into this: The police had to investigate, child protective services investigated, there’s a trial that’s about to happen. All that time and money and effort is, in effect, stolen from finding the relatively few children in actual danger.”

He added that Colorado has a task force that is examining the whole question of mandatory reporting. “They should look very closely at this case.”

They sure should. It’s time to stop demanding that anyone who works with kids hew to exacting, abnormal, automaton standards, and pretending kids are in danger when they act like caring humans instead. – L.S.


  1. MonicaMonica says:

    I think this is such a good example of “concept creep” when it comes to casting normal childhood behavior as predatory sexual child abuse. Kids are curious about their own bodies and the bodies of other children. This is not abnormal. And the teacher’s seemed to be doing their best. The idea of the squad cars – this is just silly.

    It feels like a nationwide CYA policy with common sense thrown in the trash.

    Thank you for bringing light to these cases to ensure that we don’t accept them as the new normal.

    It’s not quite like the satanic panic, but let’s call it the perfectionist panic! Or the antifragility panic!

  2. CaryCary says:

    When I was in first grade, a little girl and I were doing what used to be called “horseplay” or “roughhousing” during recess. It was 1961, and that sort of thing was so unremarkable that nobody ever even noticed. We were both laughing and wrestling around, and without really thinking about it much, I pulled the neck of her her blouse out and had a peek. The teacher did notice that social faux pas, and after explaining to me in an angry tone how I had screwed up, she stood me in the corner for about an hour. The little girl went on playing, roughhousing, and laughing with other kids, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t traumatized for life. I learned a lesson about propriety concerning girls and women that has stuck with me for over sixty years, and that was the end of the matter.

    • JohnJohn says:

      What completely befuddles me is if the boy would have punched the girl in the nose or stomped on her face or tossed her around by her hair and if the two daycare employees dealt with the situation accordingly without calling the police, that would have been acceptable. BUT because the kid did something interpreted as sexual, touching her butt, now it is assumed that the girl is gonna be scarred for life and therefore, the daycare workers need to be put in jail, the boy needs to undergo rehabilitation for the next 10 years, and the girl will need intense counseling until age 18. Why is 5-year-old boy touching a little girls butt considered more abusive than holding a red hot iron to her face?

  3. DevontaDevonta says:

    The teachers don’t need to be investigated, however maybe a social worker needs to visit the home cause that boy may be seeing things at home he shouldn’t see.

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