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Woman charged, facility cited after alleged daycare injury

Ashley M. Garrity

St. Croix County prosecutors charged a former Baldwin daycare worker and state officials fined the facility after the woman allegedly broke a toddler’s leg while handling him in a rough way.

Ashley M. Garrity, 26, made her initial appearance Sept. 8 in St. Croix County Circuit Court on one count of physical child abuse, a felony. The Baldwin woman was booked into jail and was released after the hearing on a $10,000 signature bond.

The daycare facility, New Richmond-based Bear Buddies Educational Resources, was fined by the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) for two violations stemming from the incident. The facility violated administrative code prohibiting actions that are “physically painful, discomforting, dangerous or potentially injurious,” according to a July 21 letter sent by the state. A second violation outlined in the letter cited the facility’s failure to report the alleged rough handling to St. Croix County Human Services.

The facility was fined a total of $1,200 by the state.

An official from Bear Buddies did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

According to a St. Croix County criminal complaint:

Baldwin police were notified March 10 that a parent wanted to talk to officers about her 14-month-old child, who had been treated at Baldwin Area Medical Center for a broken leg.

The mother met with police and officials from the DCF’s Division of Early Care and Education and told them her son was injured Feb. 24 at the Bear Buddies daycare facility in Baldwin. The woman said she and the child’s father brought the boy into the hospital after picking him up and learning from staff that he was not bearing weight on his right leg.

The state officials showed the officer surveillance footage from the facility. The video depicts the boy walking normally. At one point he is placed on the floor by a female daycare worker. Video from the rest of the day depicts the boy only crawling, not walking.

The state officials and the officer suspected the injury was sustained while the boy was set down. The officer also cited concerns with “the day care workers handling the children in general.”

“I thought some of their action(s)/interactions with the children were in my opinion, ‘concerning,’” officer Chad Gallmeier wrote in the report.

A Bear Buddies official identified the woman in the video as Garrity and told police she had been fired after the video had been reviewed.

Gallmeier documented several interactions depicted on video from throughout the day on Feb. 24 that “I believed to be concerning or in a ‘rough’ manner.”

Police interviewed Garrity, who denied causing the injury, but said she noticed that day something was wrong with the boy’s leg so she told her manager. The manager called the child’s mother and told her something appeared to be wrong with the boy’s leg, Garrity explained.

During the interview with Gallmeier, Garrity said she recalled Feb. 24 as a busy day and that the facility was short-staffed at the time. Her boss had told her she appeared to be “pissed” that day, Garrity told police.

She later admitted to being reprimanded by her boss for her handling of children and said she is no longer working in the child care field.

Another worker at the facility said in an interview with police that Garrity could be “rough” with children but didn’t think it was “neglectful” or malicious.

Gallmeier then reviewed the video in detail and chronicled numerous interactions throughout the day, including Garrity:

— Using her foot to push a child off a basket, where the child drops to the floor but appears OK.

— Pushing a child down on her rear end; the girl appears to cry afterward.

— Carrying the 14-month-old victim into a room by his arm while kicking his rear end to guide his way.

— Setting a girl down hard after she is seen pushing on the back of the victim’s head; the girl appears OK.

— Pushing another girl backward who lands on her rear end.

— Forcibly grabbing a  boy and setting him down hard, then twice dragging him toward her after he crawled off and forcibly placing him in her lap both times.

— Grabbing an infant by the arm, pulling her toward her and striking her chin on Garrity’s knee; the same child is seen being handled roughly two minutes later.

— Forcibly removing two children from a sleeping mat and setting them down.

— Lifting an infant by one arm.

— Carrying the male victim by one arm and swinging him into a room, where he lands on his right leg.

“He is observed trying to get to the nearest bed,” Gallmeier wrote. “Once he is there he appears to be crying.”

That instance, authorities allege, was the action that caused the leg break.

Gallmeier document additional instances of the victim struggling to walk and crying after being helped to a standing position.

A Children’s Hospital child-abuse doctor was asked to review the video in conjunction with the child’s injury.

“Throughout the morning there are multiple episodes where she treats children roughly and certainly in ways that would not be considered routine childhood care,” Dr. Mark Hudson wrote in his report.

After reviewing the video, he reversed his initial conclusion that the injury was likely accidental.

“New information demonstrates that this fracture likely was an inflicted fracture when he was placed down roughly at daycare,” Hudson wrote.

The case is set for an Oct. 24 preliminary hearing.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(715) 426-1072
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