In whisteblower lawsuit, fired teacher alleges safety issues at SFCC Kids Campus

December 20, 2018

A former teacher at the Santa Fe Community College early childhood center claims the school’s leaders endangered children by violating a number of safety practices.

And because she spoke out, plaintiff Frances McAdams says in a whistleblower complaint in state District Court, the college gave her the boot.

Among other allegations, the suit claims the school did not complete background checks for all adults on the campus, that a teacher threw a sunscreen bottle at a child and that staff members turned security personnel into boogeymen by warning children that “if they didn’t behave, the security guards would take them to jail.”

In one instance, the suit claims, staff members unhappy with how a child was acting filled a backpack with wooden blocks and made the child wear it outside and inside the center in an effort to make him behave.

College spokesman Todd Lovato said in an email that the school takes such allegations seriously but cannot comment on pending litigation.

“We are committed to the health and well-being of every child in the program,” Lovato said.

The Kids Campus, as the early childhood education center is known, is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and maintains a five-star rating — the best an early childhood program can earn — from the state’s New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.

The suit says McAdams has over 20 years of teaching experience in preschool settings and was employed at the college from May to October 2017. Because she was working under a one-year probationary period set by the college, Human Resources Department personnel told her she had no right to contest the termination, the complaint says.

The suit says the Children, Youth and Families Department was notified of the sunscreen bottle incident. Henry Varela, spokesman for that department, confirmed it received that complaint in June 2017 and that it was “substantiated.”

The Kids Campus opened as the Early Childhood Education Center in 1991 and underwent a name change to the Kids Campus in 2012. It serves more than 100 children who range in age from 8 weeks old to 5 years old.

Santa Fe attorney Timothy Butler, who represents McAdams in the case, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday. The community college, including the Kids Campus, is closed for winter break, and efforts to reach personnel there were unsuccessful.

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