MORGAN HILL, Calif.- A Central Coast childcare academy is coming under fire, as a former teacher is accused of tainting sippy cups, intended for the toddlers she was being paid to watch. Kiddie Academy Childcare of Morgan Hill welcomed parents to answer their questions and concerns.
Parents tell us it was an emotional and frustrating night. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half and parents were visibly upset and many of them didn't want to talk. But we did speak with one mom who said it was standing room only and she's not bringing her 6-year-old son to Kiddie Academy any longer.
"I was feeling disappointed definitely, just upset that anything like this would happen. You don't want to think about it," said mom Stacy Van Wingerden.
Tears sit in the corners of mom Stacy Van Wingerden's eyes as she describes a heated meeting between her son's childcare center and the parents who pay good money to make sure their kids are safe. On Monday, parents found out 59-year-old Deborah Gratz, a former childcare teacher from Hollister, was fired from Kiddie Academy last Friday, accused of putting unknown substances in the children's drinks. Police said when Gratz was confronted by a co-worker, she admitted to adding the sleep aid Sominex to kids cups.
"They didn't say how long it had been going on. But from the assumption I got it had been something that wasn't a single time," Van Wingerden said.
Knowing how long it's been going on is a major concern for mom Maria Esparza because she said Gratz was her 2-year-old son's favorite teacher.
"It's hurtful, just to even think like if something was happening to my son because he was in her care for several months until December," said mom Maria Esparza.
But most parents said they were upset, even angry at the way the center responded to the incident. Police said Kiddie Academy waited two full days to report the information. Esparza said the center admitted to mishandling the situation.
"Basically they know they messed up by not calling the cops at first," Esparza said.
As for Van Wingerden, she's not planning to bring her son back.
"I feel sad for him because I'm having to put him in a new environment with new kids and a change for him," Van Wingerden said.
We tried to speak with Kiddie Academy about the meeting but they wouldn't comment. Parents said the academy plans to make the center more secure moving forward.