SANTA CLARA (ABC4 News) – The owner of a Santa Clara Montessori school is facing a criminal investigation after parents claim their kids were abused while in her care.
Analee Talbot was charged May 17 with a Class A misdemeanor count of child abuse by the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
ABC4 News sat down with Ruth A. Shapiro, the attorney representing Desert Edge Montessori with regard to the civil claims that may be brought by parents or former and present students.
“We wholly deny these allegations, which appear to be brought by perhaps a disgruntled former employee through the use of social media,” said Shapiro.
Kristie Shaw, whose child used to attend Desert Edge Montessori, said Talbot grabbed her son’s arms, squeezing “really, really hard where it hurt” while yelling at him to be quiet.
“I asked [Talbot] if anything was going on that I should know about,” Shaw said. “I told her [my son] doesn’t want to go to school. She looked at [him] and said, ‘Haven’t you been telling your mom that you’re not behaving in class?”
Gigi Lalonde, of St. George, whose child also used to attend the daycare, said Talbot frequently spanked and slapped her son.
“My son is still struggling with PTSD to this day,” Lalonde said, confirming her son is now in therapy. “He still isn’t back fully potty trained.”
Shapiro says the Desert Edge daycare is no longer operating, but the preschool is. The attorney says the school is now Red Rock Montessori, which is located at the same building as the former Desert Edge Montessori. Talbot is presently involved with it, according to Shapiro.
Analee Talbot’s husband, Vernon, is listed as the registered agent for Desert Edge Childcare, another business operating at the same location as Red Rock Montessori, according to the Utah Division of Corporations & Commercial Code.
Parents expressed concern that similar abuse may be ongoing at both businesses, stating they don’t understand why Talbot and her husband are affiliated with any daycare in the area.
“She’s just re-branded to make it look as though it’s a new school under new ownership when it’s really just the same,” said Shaw.
Shapiro stated the allegations are acts of a vendetta against Talbot from a “disgruntled former employee.”
“This is the first time that any allegations of this nature have ever been brought,” Shapiro said. “Talbot’s operated preschool facilities for over ten years.”
According to the Better Business Bureau website, Desert Edge Montessori received a grade of D+, with one complaint claiming that the business advertised itself as a nationally accredited Montessori school.
ABC4 News confirmed with a representative from the American Montessori Society, who checked databases and stated the school has never been accredited.