Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Owner of Wilmington childcare center arrested for alleged child abuse, more parents come forward

Carr’s Academy on Peachtree Avenue was the site of an incident last month that resulted in the childcare center’s owner and an employee being arrested Wednesday. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

WILMINGTON –– An employee and the owner of the childcare centers Carr’s Academy and Carr’s Academy 2 have been arrested for alleged child abuse. The alleged abuse occurred at Carr’s Academy on Peachtree Avenue last month. 

Owner Pamela Carr and employee Geraldine Sidbury were each charged with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse and two counts of assault on a child under 12. The incident with Carr occured May 26, according to available court records. Warrants were not yet available at the courthouse as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Carr and Sidbury were served warrants and arrested Wednesday. Reached at the Peachtree location, employees redirected inquiries to an attorney and shut the door when asked for additional comment. 

Criminal defense attorney Grayson Cheek said Carr is accused of slapping the palm of a child with a belt. Carr was given a $10,000 unsecured bond, according to Cheek. Cheek is not representing Sidbury. The Wilmington Police Department announced Wednesday afternoon Sidbury was given a $5,000 bond. 

Cheek indicated he would likely provide a written statement after consulting with his client; this article will be updated to include that statement if and when it is provided. 

Neither Carr nor Sidbury are in custody, according to New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office inmate records.

Inspection record

In less than three years, Carr’s Academy had nine unannounced visits from the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education. Five of the inspections resulted in violations.

The state tightly regulates childcare centers, enforcing stringent safety, sanitation, and supervisory protocols. 

Regulators conducted two site visits on one day on March 3 –– the most recent date of inspections. One of the visits resulted in two violations of the state’s discipline policy for childcare centers. 

The inspection report noted a child was threatened with a spanking from their parent. Staff then allowed the child to be spanked by their parent in the classroom bathroom. (Corporal punishment is not permitted except in religious-sponsored childcare centers, per state policy.)

State discipline policy states children “must never be yelled at, shamed, frightened, threatened, or bullied.” Staff threatened to have a child spanked or call a parent if they didn’t behave, a violation of this policy, according to the report. 

The original center on Peachtree Avenue has a four-star license out of a five-star rating system. 

Other recent violations include: 

  • Unsafe equipment both inside and outside the center; 
  • Unsupervised children and children using unapproved office space; 
  • Failure to complete an up-to-date background check on an employee; 
  • Unapproved child-staff ratios, in which 18 toddlers between 2 and 3 years old were left with one staff member and 13 toddlers between 1 and 2 years old were supervised by two employees (during this visit, Carr told inspectors two employees were out on sick leave)

The facility corrected each noted violation, as indicated in letters delivered to regulators. 

Carr Academy 2 opened in January off Holly Tree Road. Out of four unannounced site visits, the new center –– which services just infants and babies up to 35 months old –– has just one violation for not meeting minimum child-staff ratios. This facility is operating with a temporary license (Covid-19 halted the state’s star-rating program). 

Both facilities operate using subsidy reimbursements, made available to low-income families to help offset the costs of childcare. 

Parents come forward

After learning of the owner’s arrest, a former client, Katie S., was relieved she believed her son and pulled him out of the center (Port City Daily agreed to withhold her last name for privacy concerns). 

Before attending Carr Academy, her son had night terrors, which resulted in him periodically waking up afraid and crying. When Katie enrolled him in the daycare in 2018 when he was around 3 years old, she said she let the facility’s staff know about his issues. One night when she picked him up, she said he told her a man who was assigned to supervise the children while they slept slapped him on the face to get him to calm down after awaking with a night terror. 

“I wasn’t sure if my son had dreamed it at first, but I wasn’t going to send him back somewhere that that may have happened to him unless I could absolutely prove him wrong,” she said. “After about a month of him continuing to talk about how scared he was of the man and waking up after having nightmares about it, I’m sure I made the right decision.”

She said she told the daycare’s staff about her son’s experience. “They didn’t believe us,” she said. 

After the incident, Katie said her son’s night terrors worsened, almost always involving the man who he said slapped him. “My son is 6 years old now and speaks of it clearly still to this day,” she said. 

Another mother, Ta’Shayla Gross, said she pulled her 2-year-old son out of the center after he told his mom and aunt his teacher was hitting him last summer. “He was always so scared to go there,” she said. “He kept saying he was being hit, but he was only 2 at the time so we didn’t really know.”

When Gross would drop him off, she said he would become upset and say, “That lady hit me,” “she keep hitting me.” The woman her son was referring to was Carr, Gross confirmed. She said she recently reported her experience to WPD.

At his new daycare center, Gross said her son has no issues. “[N]ow I know he really wasn’t lying,” she said.

Wilmington police are continuing to investigate. “WPD encourages anyone who feels their child may have been victimized to please call the department,” the department shared in a release.

Alexandria Sands Williams contributed to reporting.

(Left) Geraldine Sidbury and Pamela Carr were arrested Wednesday, each charged with child abuse. Wilmington Police Department is still investigating. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy WPD)

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