Amy Lovato, the Colorado day care worker accused of child abuse after a boy in her class allegedly touched a female classmate's butt, has been found not guilty of the charges.
It took the six-person jury just two hours to render its verdict after a two-day trial. Lovato says she cried after hearing the verdict.
"All I've been able to see for a little while was this trial," she says.
The Chaffee County day care center where Lovato worked has been closed since January 24, according to The Colorado Sun. On that day, half a dozen armed sheriff's deputies raided the place, telling all the children's parents to come to pick up their kids immediately—without explaining why. Terrified parents raced over and only later found out that the crime involved a 5-year-old and two toddlers.
Lovato, the director of the nonprofit running the school, had been filling in for an absent teacher in January. After a child wet his blanket during nap time, she briefly left the room to throw it in the wash.
She returned to find the kids pretending to be kitty cats in the "dramatic play area," she says. They were pretending to fill bowls of water for the cats, and petting them. A 3-year-old girl pretending to be a cat went to get changed and mentioned to another teacher that one of her male classmates had touched her.
The next day, a teacher saw that same boy repeat this action. (A local news outlet initially reported that the boy had pulled down the classmate's pants as well, but according to Lovato, this was false.)
Teachers are mandatory reporters required by law to report abuse, and even suspicions of abuse. And so the school reported these incidents, three days after they occurred, to the child welfare department, the county, and the state licensing office.
Authorities took the position that the school had not reported the abuse quickly enough, and also that leaving the kids alone in the classroom—for a brief moment—constituted neglect.
Almost no one connected to the school agreed with this, least of all the parents of the kids involved. Twelve of the 14 families who sent their kids to the day care center had signed a petition asking for the charges to be dropped, according to The Colorado Sun. A parent of one of the ostensibly abused girls actually took the stand for the defense, telling the court that her daughter missed the boy who had touched her; he was her best friend. (His family "had to leave town because of the heat," says Jason Flores-Williams, Lovato's attorney.)
After the acquittal, the county commissioners have budgeted $133,000 toward reopening the center, even though Roberta Rodriguez, the center's director, is still facing trial on a charge stemming from the same case. Neither Lovato nor Rodriguez could work in their field while awaiting the verdicts. (They are soliciting funds for their legal defense through a GoFundMe campaign.)
It's unclear if the other workers who lost their jobs will return, says Lovato, as they have found other jobs. "Every single child care center in our area needs child care workers," she says.
Incidents like this probably don't make the work seem very attractive.
"Do you want child care providers to be running off to the authorities to report toddlers?" wonders Flores-Williams. "Do you want the government intervening every second and millisecond of children's lives? Turning child care providers into robotic reporting machines? The jury, to their credit, just said no."
The post Court Clears Colorado Day Care Worker Accused of Child Abuse After Mundane Incident appeared first on Reason.com.