AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin pre-school teacher is accused of sexually assaulting his 4-year-old female student in the school’s bathroom, according to an arrest warrant.
The victim first told her mother about the incident on Oct. 14, 2016, claiming she was touched by her teacher, 51-year-old John Charles Arnold, at the Nature School of Austin, a private pre-school for children between the ages of 1 and 6 in the Oak Hill area. According to the arrest warrant, Arnold followed the girl into the bathroom while the rest of the class was napping at the end of September. In a police interview, the girl said while they were in the bathroom he was making animal noises while he touched her inappropriately.
Police first questioned Arnold on Jan. 9, 2017 where he detailed an incident involving a lipstick. He claimed he took a lipstick from the child because she was not allowed to bring it to school, but says he did not do anything wrong with the child. The mother told police she knew about the lipstick incident from early October.
During a meeting between the mother, two other parents, Arnold and the school’s director in October, the teacher admitted to rubbing the child’s back and feet to help her fall asleep during nap time. The victim’s mother was “taken back” by Arnold admitting to touching her daughter, which only added to her concerns.
The other parent who was a part of the discussion told police her daughter loved going to school, but “suddenly did not like going to school anymore.” While the parent couldn’t get her daughter to explain why she no longer wanted to go to school, she did admit it was because of Mr. Arnold, continued in the court document.
Arnold told police he had been a teacher for some time and was hired by Nature School of Austin in September 2016. According to court documents, Arnold was let go from the school in October, after the meeting with the parents. Arnold was arrested by police Wednesday afternoon.
KXAN has reached out the Nature School of Austin for a statement on Arnold. When KXAN reporter Lauren Lanmon knocked on the door of the school, an employee said she had no comment on the situation.
Looking into the history of the day care with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, KXAN discovered several minor infractions:
- Failure to background check employee on Dec. 6, 2016
- Did not complete annual fire inspection on Jan. 25, 2016
- Did not complete annual sanitary inspection on Jan. 25, 206
- Did not have emergency contact information for three kids on file on June 18, 2016
- Did not notify parents of animals in the school on June 8, 2015
Childcare licensing requirements in Texas
Following the alleged incident, and after receiving the report, representatives with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services tell KXAN they immediately put a safety plan into place. In direct response to Arnold, DFPS cited the day care for an “inadequate training” violation.
Later, because of the report, Child Care Licensing with DFPS conducted unannounced follow-up inspections at the facility on Oct. 18 and Dec. 6. As a result of the December site visit, the state inspector cited the operation for “failing to have a criminal background check renewed on an employee.” KXAN learned it is one of the most common violations the state sees at day care facilities.
In fact, violations related to background checks make up three of the top 10 standards deficiencies documented for child day care licensed centers in FY2015. DFPS says they do not yet have the 2016 numbers finalized, but say they stay just about the same year to year.
Following Wednesday’s arrest, DFPS Child Care Licensing says the agency will continue to work with the Austin Police Department on this case. The department regulates child care facilities and child-placing agencies in Texas. According to DFPS, “The purpose of regulation is to protect a group or class of children by establishing and enforcing statewide minimum standards.”
KXAN reached out to child care facilities in the area to understand the process of acquiring and maintaining child care licenses in Texas.
The Primrose School of Southwest Austin has been in operation for more than a decade. Its director, Katy Green, sat down with KXAN to explain the lengthy process child care facilities must undergo in order to remain in good standing with the state.
“You name it, there’s a long list of things to make sure you’re in compliance and keep your child care license,” she said. “Why would you not just want to do it right? Why would you want to risk the safety of these children?”
When it comes to staffing, Green says, background check obligations are the number one priority. At Primrose she says a new prospective new employee’s background check must be complete and in good standing before they are offered a job. “You have to renew those, keep those up every two years,” she added.
Green says Primrose School of Southwest Austin goes above and beyond the requirement. “If you know that something happens with an employee, doing the background check again, just to make sure everything is in compliance, that they can be here.”
Background checks come at a cost. It’s a cost Primrose takes on as a business.
“There’s definitely a financial obligation and if you don’t meet your requirements, there’s fees,” Green said. “Annually, we pay for our child care license, and at that time, I also calculate how many background checks I did in that year and we pay for all of those.”
Green says it takes money, time, and effort to ensure the safety of all students at their child care center.
“There’s a lot of paperwork behind it and that can be cumbersome. It can be hard sometimes, [but], it’s definitely a team effort. There’s a lot that goes into it. [We] make sure our teachers are being compliant in the classroom, and then we’re being compliant on our paperwork side.”
She says you couldn’t do it alone, but that it’s all worthwhile — that the rules are here with good reason.
“[They] keep us safe, keep the children safe. That’s the number one reason we’re here is their safety. Getting to educate and play with them is just a bonus,” said Green. “I’m very proud to be a part of an organization that is not going to cut corners. You know, we’re going to go the distance and make sure we do the right thing.”
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