Tufts Day Care investigates allegations of inappropriate behavior

Tufts Educational Day Care Center (TEDCC) is currently involved in an ongoing investigation of a teacher at the center who allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior with children.

According to Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler, the allegations are not for sexual misconduct or abuse, but for other inappropriate physical and verbal misconduct that was reported through the staff in late January.

“The conduct that has raised concerns involves actions such as poking children and holding their faces, as well as use of an inappropriate tone, demeanor, word choice and vocal volume in communications with children,” Thurler told the Daily in an email.

TEDCC Director Polly Smith, in an email to the TEDCC community, informed those involved with the center that the teacher has been removed from the classroom until the investigation is finished.

“Please be assured that we will be looking at this matter thoroughly to make sure that we have identified any and all conduct of concern, and we will take corrective action as appropriate,” Smith said.

Tufts University reported the behavior to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the center’s licensing agency, Early Education and Care (EEC), Thurler said. The DCF may hold an investigation of the incident in addition to the ongoing investigation by Tufts.

According Thurler, TEDCC offers a year-round early childhood education program for children who are between two years and nine months old through kindergarten-age. The curriculum focuses on offering individualized attention to the developmental needs of the children.

TEDCC is located in Somerville on Holland Avenue near the Medford/Somerville undergraduate campus.

According to a Tufts student who travels to TEDCC on a weekly basis for the Leonard Carmichael Society program Special Friends, there are a variety of ways students at Tufts are involved with the center. Around 80 students are on the e-list for Special Friends, and students also have the opportunity to work in paid positions as temporary teachers.

Special Friends was started in 1986 and partners adults and children for a few hours every week in order to build a relationship that benefits the child, according to the TEDCC website.

“There are always teachers around when you are there playing with the kids, so if they see something inappropriate they are most definitely going to tell you,” the Special Friends volunteer, who preferred to remain anonymous for the article, said.

Before participating in the classroom visits, Special Friends volunteers are required to undergo an orientation educating appropriate behavior and conduct, the volunteer said.

“In September or October of last year they did an orientation for us and there were a lot of forms,” she said. “Basically it was just like, ‘No peanuts and no inappropriate clothing.’ It sounded pretty standard.”

The volunteer said she was unaware of the inappropriate conduct by a teacher at the center before receiving the email, and has not heard discussion about the behavior since the email was sent out.

“They didn’t say anything to us except for sending us the email,” the Special Friends volunteer said. “Which makes sense because the kids are there and the parents are around.”

The center is deliberately attempting to continue its operations as usual, Thurler said.

“The dedicated staff at TEDCC are continuing to serve the children as they always have, and our goal is to minimize disruption to the children, families and the center,” she said.

In addition to the email sent to those Tufts students involved with TEDCC, the parents of children at the center were also informed of the inappropriate conduct, according to Thurler.

“We have informed parents whose children attend the center of the investigation and our continued commitment to their children,” she said.

Smith promised the TEDCC community that they would receive continued notification throughout the investigation.

“We will continue to update you as we learn more about next steps and will endeavor to provide these updates to you in a timely fashion,” she said.

Thurler stressed the importance of maintaining quality care for the children at the center despite the incident.

“Our first priority is the well-being of the children entrusted to us,” she said.