PIERCE TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- A former employee of a Rainbow Child Care facility pleaded not guilty to a charge of child endangerment Wednesday morning.
Daycare officials fired Laura Macias last month from the Amelia location amid a state investigation alleging she used "cruel, harsh, unusual or extreme techniques" on children while she worked at the Clermont County day care center.
The WCPO I-Team learned about the recent allegations when one child's mother, Jessica Wilson, contacted us. Her son went to a Rainbow Child Care location on Appomattox Drive in Pierce Township.
According to a police report, Wilson's 5-year-old son told her “the teacher with the nails” had made dark-red marks on his arms and neck May 2. Wilson’s son also had bruising on his rib cage and right upper leg as well as scratches on the bottom of his right leg.
Wilson told police Rainbow called her to claim her son had been scratching himself all day.
According to a Pierce Township police report, Danielle Corbin, regional manager of Rainbow Child Care, told Wilson that Macias said her son was “throwing a tantrum on the playground” and had tripped over her foot. Macias told Corbin she grabbed him so he wouldn’t fall, the police report said.
Corbin also said there was video of a teacher grabbing the child by his arms and neck and said what was seen in the video is consistent with the child’s injuries, according to the report.
Taylor Vaughn, of Clermont County Children’s Protective Services, said Macias admitted she grabbed the child “in an inappropriate manner that was against Rainbow Day Care’s protocol,” the police report said.
Macias told police she was scared and didn’t know what to do because she had been taking care of children for 20 years and had never had any issues. Macias said the child involved has “behavioral problems” and she “was trying to get him away from other kids and teachers” but he was fighting her, police reports said.
A statement sent to the I-Team on June 6 from Rainbow's corporate offices in Michigan claimed Macias had been fired as soon as management became aware of the alleged abuse.
"We have cooperated fully with the authorities during their investigation and will continue to work openly with all appropriate authorities and agencies," the statement reads. "Rainbow takes great care in developing a secure environment at our centers, including following all state and federal guidelines with regard to our hiring practices and procedures, as well as conducting comprehensive background checks on all employees before they are hired."
Wilson’s attorney, Brian Goldwasser, provided this statement on her behalf:
"No parent should have to worry about entrusting their child to a daycare and we are very pleased that the prosecutor and police department have taken seriously this unfortunate situation."
Macias’ attorney, David S. McCune, said he did not have a comment. Macias is due back in court on July 2.
Asked about the criminal case, Rainbow offered a statement through its public relations firm:
“Rainbow Child Care Center takes great care in developing a secure environment at its centers, as the safety and well-being of every child we are privileged to serve is our first priority. As soon as we were made aware of the situation, we self-reported the incident to the state and the employee in question was terminated. We have cooperated fully with the authorities during their investigation and will continue to work openly with all appropriate authorities and agencies moving forward.”
This isn't the first time the I-Team has uncovered problems with Rainbow Child Care facilities in the Tri-State.
In February 2017, we first reported nearly half of the 13 locations in Northern Kentucky were at risk of losing their licenses because of violations. Those came to light after police charged Anne Ogonek, a former work at Rainbow's Edgewood facility, with criminal abuse. According to a police report, surveillance video showed she yanked children by their arms and covered a 14-month-old boy's face with a blanket to make him sleep.
Rainbow fired Ogonek, and she pleaded guilty at the end of last year.
The company also complied with state sanctions, and its 13 Northern Kentucky centers remain licensed.