SANTA CLARA (ABC4 News) – Eight families of former students who attended Desert Edge Montessori, a private school and daycare in Santa Clara that recently shut down, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the facility and its owner Analee Talbot.
Plaintiffs allege that Talbot often hit and yelled at their children, aged 2 through 5, engaging in a pattern of abuse and neglect, according to the complaint filed in Fifth District Judicial Court in Washington County.
The parents reported that their kids were afraid to attend Desert Edge and experienced behavioral changes, such as soiling themselves although they were potty trained, the lawsuit alleges.
In June, Talbot pleaded not guilty to a class A misdemeanor count of child abuse related to one of the child’s claims.
Ruth Shapiro, the attorney representing Desert Edge Montessori, denied all the allegations against the facility and stuck with her original statement to ABC4 News in June.
Shapiro said that the accusations against Talbot and Desert Edge Montessori are “wholly without merit,” some of which include battery, breach of contract, and punitive damages.
“Talbot has successfully operated preschool facilities for over ten years,” Shapiro said. “We wholly deny any of these allegations, which appear to be brought on by perhaps a former disgruntled employee.”
Over the past few months, ABC4 News has interviewed 4 of the parents now involved in the civil suit against Desert Edge and Talbot.
Gary and Megan Stark, the parents of a four-year-old boy involved in the criminal case and civil lawsuit against Talbot, said a whistleblower witnessed Talbot slapping their son.
“I asked him if a teacher hurt him at school,” Meagan Stark said in June. “His response was, ‘Yeah, Miss Annie, but I’m OK now because I wiped the blood away.'”
“It made us feel like failures as parents not being able to protect our children,” added Gary Stark.
Gigi LaLonde told ABC4 News that she noticed her son began peeing his pants regularly and begged her not to take him to Desert Edge Montessori, alleging Talbot often spanked and yelled at her son.
“My son is still struggling with PTSD to this day, and he is still not back fully potty-trained,” LaLonde said in June.
A child identified in the lawsuit as D.R., the son of Gigi LaLonde, was allegedly “spanked, yelled at, and even watched as his sister was forced to eat food that had been in the garbage,” the lawsuit states.
Kacei Slade, whose two sons were enrolled at Desert Edge, identified as B.S. and S.S. Slade alleged that her mother-in-law picked the kids up one day, finding B.S’s diaper “very full with both urine and hard feces.” Slade said B.S. had an extreme diaper rash and needed medical attention.
Another time, Slade alleged she came to pick up her sons at the scheduled pick-up time and found them “locked out of the school and sitting on the sidewalk in the summer heat.” She said she found one employee “sitting in her vehicle looking at her phone.”
A child identified as B.W., who attended the facility in 2015, allegedly used a pencil sharpener when he wasn’t allowed to, the lawsuit alleges. Talbot reportedly pushed him against the wall and took the sharpened pencil from his hand, stabbing him with it on his left arm.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Nathan Langston said the ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to make sure that Talbot is never in a “position of power and authority over young children again in a Montessori or daycare type environment.”
“I want the truth to come out and that’s what the civil discovery process will do. Based on the number of people that I’ve talked to and the stories that they’ve shared with me, I believe it’s going to look very badly for Analee,” said Langston.
Langston said he wants the civil discovery process to aid in the criminal investigation.
“We fully support the legal process and believe the process of true discovery will support our position that these accusations are untrue,” added Shapiro on Friday.
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