A New Jersey lawmaker says he is working to require background checks for private school teachers after cellphone videos obtained exclusively by NBC 4 New York showed a Montessori school employee aggressively handling children.
Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-Hoboken) said he began writing a bill after seeing the videos of teachers at Apple Montessori School in Hoboken handling children roughly.
One video shows an aide manhandling a 23-month-old girl as she attempts t put a hat on the child; the other shows a teacher grabbing a crying child by her feet, then yanking the toddler around.
"I couldn't believe a teacher would do that to a child," Garcia said. "We have to protect those children as well as the parents of those children, who deserve to know that those teaching their children are qualified and are keeping them safe."
Garcia said his draft would bring requirements in line with public schools and charter schools in the Garden State.
"I want to ensure that every school is a safe environment for students by ensuring a common-sense safety measure is required of all," he said. "A simple background check can go a long way towards easing parental concerns and, ultimately and most importantly, keeping our children and students safe."
Apple Montessori, which runs 17 schools New Jersey, fired five employees after the videos were released. Among the terminated employees included both the teachers seen in the videos and the director and the assistant director of the Hoboken school.
"We are outraged by the lack of care and concern this former employee showed," Apple Montessori School in Hoboken said after the firings. "We do not condone this type of behavior in any way, shape or form. Additionally, we are instituting new safety measures to ensure that this type of incident doesn’t happen again."
The school held a meeting for parents Friday assuring that major policy changes are coming. The owners promised they would install more cameras inside the school, and that parents could access them remotely, according to parents who were at the meeting. They also promised improved communication between the school management, owners and parents.
Parents were also told at the meeting that the State Department of Children Services is investigating.