Lawsuit: Employee sexually abused 4-year-old at Bright Horizons Children's Center

Employee follows toddler models on Instagram, lawsuit says

ORLANDO, Fla. – The parents of a 4-year-old boy are suing a Baldwin Park pre-school and an employee they said sexually abused their son.

The family's attorney filed a complaint Thursday against Bright Horizons Children's Centers and a former employee. The lawsuit alleges that the child care center hired the employee without a proper background check that would have revealed his "pedophile tendencies, such as his obsession with little boys."

News 6 is not naming the employee, because he has not been formally charged by law enforcement.

The sexual assault happened at Bright Horizons, according to the complaint. The male employee was hired at Bright Horizons in September 2016.

According to the lawsuit, the suspected employee follows at least 100 toddler-aged Instagram models and his account is public. If Bright Horizons had conducted a background check and searched his social media accounts this would have been apparent to them, the complaint said.

"The man that they hired on his public Instagram account posted photos of him holding a machine gun," attorney Jeff Herman said. "In addition, when you go into his public Instagram account, you will find that he was following literally hundreds of little boys. These are all toddlers who are male models, etc. And these are all indicators, we allege, as a pedophile."

A teacher assigned to the accused employee's classroom also reported concerns that he was "grooming" a boy for sexual abuse. The teacher who made the complaint was then removed from the classroom and he was not disciplined or fired, according to the lawsuit.

The child was abused after the complaint was made.

"There was a teacher who specifically complained that she observed (the teacher) engaging in what she called grooming behavior," Herman said. "Grooming behavior is a behavior that a predator engages in to sexually abuse a child. Despite all of that, nothing happened."

Several teachers photographed the employee's "grooming" behavior, including children sitting on his lap, between his legs with his hands on children's chests and waists. 

The family is suing for damages of no less than $5 million plus attorney fees.

The employee was fired in May after a complaint to the Department of Children and Families was made.

After the allegations of sexual abuse emerged Bright Horizons Child Care and Learning Center held an emergency meeting for concerned parents. The facilities director was also placed on leave.

Some parents told News 6 that they have removed their children from the school.

In a letter sent home to parents, the day care said the Florida Department of Children and Families came to the center on May 19 and made them aware of the allegations of sexual battery. The letter also said three other students were interviewed by state investigators.

The same employee under investigation pleaded guilty to misdemeanor calling in a bomb threat in the state of Virginia in 2013, court records show.

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families website, an inspection of the facility in April issued a warning to the day care for failing to complete background checks on employees every five years.

Bright Horizons released a statement Thursday afternoon about the incident.

"We have been working closely with DCF on a situation that was reported to us in May and have been fully supporting DCF in that investigation.  We have been communicating with families at the center throughout this process.  We have not received the legal complaint that was shared with the news media today and have not been told by any family about the concerns referenced. Neither DCF nor the police have contacted us about this either. These are very serious allegations, and if the police or DCF do investigate them, of course we will support their efforts fully.  Nothing is more important than getting to the truth for any children involved and their families," the statement reads.