The 31-year-old teacher caught on cellphone video manhandling a child at Hoboken Apple Montessori School in New Jersey was indicted Friday on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and child abuse.
A video clip obtained by NBC 4 New York in May shows Kelli Dugan in red, sitting and holding a 2-year-old girl by her legs, preventing her from moving freely. The teacher is heard cursing in the video; she yells at the child and eventually swings her over a fence before dragging her back inside.
Dugan's attorney said he was confident that charges would be dismissed when all the evidence was presented.
"I'm surprised at the severity of the indictment because the video doesn't seem to support the charges," said Dugan's lawyer Anthony Carbone.
The school said it has implemented a comprehensive five-point plan to reinforce staff training, enhance security, and strengthen protocols for child safety and security.
"When this incident was brought to our attention, we felt compelled to take immediate and definitive measures -- which, of course, included reporting to local and state authorities," Apple Montessori School said in a statement. "The behavior depicted in a related video clearly is inconsistent with the school’s reputation for high-quality education, which has been maintained by more than 2,000 teachers and staff who have cared for students during the school’s 42- year history."
The indictment of Dugan comes a little more than a week after a teacher's aide at the school, Elisabeth Gomez, was cleared by a grand jury of abuse and other charges after a separate cellphone video showed her forcefully handling a toddler to put a hat on her head.
In Gomez's case, the grand jury ruled there was no probable cause to indict.
Meanwhile, the parents of the two children have filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from Apple Montessori Schools and several employees for negligence, emotional damage, breach of contract, assault and other charges.
Apple Montessori, which runs 17 schools in New Jersey, fired five employees after the videos were released. The terminated employees included both teachers seen in the videos and the director and the assistant director of the Hoboken school.
The owners of Apple Montessori have declined multiple requests for an interview, but said in a statement to NBC New York that the owners “took immediate and definitive action” and that they have “reviewed and reinforced training” procedures.
The Hoboken Prosecutor’s Office urges anyone who knows a child is being abused to report it to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families hotline at 1-877-NJ-Abuse, local police departments, or the Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit at (201) 915-1234.