Details of Goddard School Alleged Abuse, Teacher Locked Children in Closet
The report by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care details the allegations.
Two children at the Goddard School in Reading were allegedly put in a closet by a teacher as punishment on two separate occasions and another teacher allegedly changed a child's diaper "roughly," according to a recently released report by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).
According to the EEC, they reviewed all of the information and said that there were "regulatory issues." Goddard School Director Cheryl Bracken was asked to address the details of the report, officially called a Statement of Non-Compliance, and form a plan to address each issue.
According to the report, on Jan. 3, 2013, the school reported that on Dec. 31, 2012 the accused educator, identified only in the report as "Lee," put a child in the closet and closed the door. During an internal investigation, Lee allegedly put another child in the closet in November of 2012. Lee was fired. Bracken allegedly knew about the initial incident in November, but did not report it.
In addition, on Jan. 4 the school reported that the Goddard Corporate office received a call stating that a toddler teacher, identified only in the report at Jessica, "roughly" changed a child's diaper.
The EEC conducted a joint investigation with another party that they declined to name in the report. The investigation included interviews, reviews of staff and children’s files, review of classroom observation documentation, review of staff orientation documentation and a health and safety inspection.
According to the EEC, they required they submit a plan for corrective action to the department and cited the Goddard School for several violations:
- An educator did not immediately report two incidents in which it was alleged that a teacher put a child in the closet
- The school did not immediately report the allegations to the EEC
- The school did not immediately remove the accused educator from the classroom
- The program did not thoroughly document their internal investigation regarding an allegation of an educator placing a child in the closet
- An educator used poor judgment when on at least one occasion when a toddler was placed in a closet for a few seconds
- An educator used poor judgment by bringing a child to the front office to report the incident when she could have reported what she witnessed herself
Teacher Allegedly Witnessed Children Placed In Closet
According to the report, a teacher was interviewed by the EEC as a witness regarding the incident in November of 2012.
The witness stated that Lee said to a child, "You're not listening." Lee then allegedly opened the closet door and "guided" the child into the closet and shut the door for about three seconds, the report said. According to the witness, the child looked surprised when exiting the closet.
The witness stated that she asked Bracken in passing if it was okay to let children play in the closet. The report did not state whether Bracken answered. It did state that the witness did not follow up with Bracken about the incident because "she forgot."
When Bracken was interviewed, she stated that she was not notified of the incident and if an educator had asked her about a child playing in the closet she would have asked for additional details about the question because children are not allowed to play in the closet.
The incident in November was not documented, but after a similar incident occurred the next month and was reported, administrators asked the witness to document the previous incident.
According to the EEC report, the same teacher that witnessed the November incident saw Lee allegedly use a "stern voice" towards a child and allegedly said, "Get in the closet" at 8:15 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2012.
The report states that when the child did not enter the closet, Lee allegedly placed the child in the closet and shut the door. After 10 seconds the child let out a "yelp" and Lee opened the door, the report said. The child was upset, so Lee consoled the child.
The witness reported that she did not mention the incident to Lee because Lee would, "get mad and start yelling," according to the report.
Instead, the witness carried the child to the front office when the classes changed at 9:15 a.m. and asked the child to tell the assistant director what happened.
According to the report, the child said, "Miss Lee put me in the closet."
Teacher Fired at End of the Day Following Second Allegation
The assistant director reported the incident to the school owner Sarah Blumenstock Girrell at 10 a.m. when Girrell arrived at the school. Then Girrell and the assistant director spoke to the witness together and the witness admitted to knowing about a similar incident in November, the report said.
At 12:30 p.m., Girrell and the assistant director brought Lee into the office to discuss the incident. Lee said that she was playing a "knock-knock" game with the child when she put the child in the closet and did not think she was doing anything wrong, the report said.
Lee was allowed to work with children until the end of the day at 3 p.m. Then she was fired.
The EEC was not notified of the incident until Jan. 3, 2013.
"The main issue with the delay was that the holiday was in there," Girrell said. "And that’s why we were late, because of the holiday."
During an EEC interview with the witness, she stated that Lee "guided" the children into the closet. However, verbal and written statements given to administrators on Dec. 31, 2012 stated that Lee "pushed" the children into the closet, according to the report.
It was also reported that other educators at the school had concerns about Lee's tone of voice with children. According to the report, Lee used a "stern-firm" voice with children and that she would change that tone when parents were in the room.
The EEC contacted Lee via telephone. Lee denied placing a child in the closet in November. When asked about the December incident, she stated that the closet door was already open because she put her purse in there and the child walked into the closet to get a train, according to the report. She said she knocked on the wall and asked the child where the train conductor was. She stated that the child did not cry or need comforting after exiting the closet.
The EEC told Lee that the child stated that she had put the child in the closet. She said that the child must have been coached to say that, according to the report.
Parents of the children involved in both incidents were notified and the children still attend the school.
Teachers Required to Take Incident Reporting Training
All of the teachers at the school were asked to take a training on reporting incidents, the report said.
"Everybody had mandated reporter training and we are doing everything they told us to do," Girrell said.
She also said that "The DCF (Department of Children and Families) found all the allegations unsupported."
When asked to confirm that they found the allegations unsupported, Director of Public Affairs for the DCF Cayenne Isaksen said that they do not provide details on their investigations.
"That information is private," Isaksen said.
As for the report of Jessica roughly changing a child's diaper in a separate incident, on Jan. 4, 2013 the school reported that the Goddard Corporate office received a call stating that Jessica allegedly "roughly" changed a child’s diaper.
Jessica was interviewed by the EEC and stated that the only thing she could think of was an incident in October of 2012. She was changing a diaper, but there must have been a misunderstanding, she said in the report. She said that the child was flailing while she was changing the diaper and she was trying to keep the child from falling off the table.
Another educator and Bracken stated that they did not have any concerns with the manner in which Jessica changes diapers, the report said.
EEC spokeswoman Kathleen Hart issued the following statement:
"The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) investigated the Goddard School in response to allegations that the program may not have followed the Department’s licensing standards. This investigation determined that the Goddard School had violated EEC regulations. The Department has required the Goddard School to address several areas of non-compliance and will monitor the Goddard School’s corrective actions. EEC will take further steps, as necessary, to continue to ensure the safety and well-being of the children attending the Goddard School."
When asked why the full names were removed from the report submitted to Patch, Hart said, "Under the exemption to the public records law the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) redacted the names of the educators in the report so as to prevent an unwarranted invasion of their personal privacy."