I had received a strange phone call several weeks earlier, from the daycare director. “You may be receiving a call about Jessie some time today,” she said. “Did you have any complaints about her regarding her taking care of your daughter?”
I didn’t. My first impression of Jessie was that she was a bit distant with the kids—the first time I saw her, she was outside on the playground holding a toddler, surveying the group of kids without a smile. I thought she was someone’s mom, because she didn’t seem very interested in interacting with everyone. But she was young, somewhat attractive, and perhaps these things tricked me into believing she was perfectly competent.
After that phone call, she and the other primary toddler teacher were both fired from the daycare. A handful of the kids who had been enrolled full-time also stopped coming. My daughter didn’t seem any different through the whole ordeal. She’d had some trouble sleeping on occasion, but this wasn’t anything new (we co-sleep, so we all sometimes toss and turn). I assumed it was a technicality – maybe Jessie hadn’t adhered to the child-to-adult ratio, or maybe she gave a kid the wrong kind of food. I didn’t know, but everyone seemed so calm about it. I assumed things were taken care of. Plus, the director had installed security cameras in all of the rooms, which seemed like a good proactive step.
But I found out a couple of weeks later from an ex-employee, one who had quit after a long three years of loyal service, a little more about what had been going on. Jessie had locked a child in the toddler bathroom, a tiny, dark space, as punishment. She had also discovered that a particular stuffed animal scared one of the little girls, so she would terrorize the girl with it whenever she misbehaved. And when they were playing outside in the summer heat, the protocol was to spritz the children with a water bottle to keep them cool – but Jessie would turn the spray on jet and squirt the kids in the face. The other employees caught on when they noticed the toddlers running away and crying whenever they would get out spray bottles to clean the rooms.
A police investigation has been consequently launched and charges have been pressed against Jessie by the family of one of the children.