HOBOKEN, NJ – A former Hoboken day care teacher has been indicted on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, authorities said on Friday.
A grand jury indicted Kelli Dugan, 31, formerly of Guttenberg, on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, a second degree crime, and child abuse, a fourth degree crime.
Authorities did not say in a release what Dugan, who worked as a teacher at Apple Montessori School in Hoboken, was being charged for doing. A Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman has not yet responded to an e-mail inquiry on Friday about why Dugan was charged.
ABC reported that the prosecutor said the charges stemmed from alleged abuse caught on camera.
After the media release was issued Friday afternoon, Dugan’s lawyer Anthony Carbone said that, after consulting with his client, “we’re a little surprised at the severity of the indictment since the video doesn’t seem to support the severity of the charges.”
“However we are confident that once all the facts are laid out, that the charges against Kelli will be dismissed,” he said.
In a statement, Apple Montessori School said that after learning about a video incident involving Dugan, “we felt compelled to take immediate and definitive measures — which, of course, included firing the employee involved and reporting to local and state authorities.”
“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 school said.
“Since learning of the incident, we implemented a comprehensive five-point plan to reinforce staff training, enhance security, and strengthen protocols for child safety and security.”
In a cellphone video that NBC New York said it obtained in May, a woman who NBC New York identifies as Dugan is seen with a toddler.
In the grainy video, which NBC New York said was taken by a concerned witness (who wished to remain anonymous) in a residential building overlooking the school’s play yard, a woman in a red shirt holds a toddler by the legs. She also yells and then swings the child over the fence.
NBC New York also reported that Dugan is heard cursing, but the video’s sound-quality was too poor for NJ Advance Media to discern.
Carbone confirmed that Dugan is the red-shirted woman, but he said that he was still working to obtain the full video from the Prosecutor’s Office. He said he did not know what actions the grand jury was considering when it made its decision.
The Apple Montessori School in Hoboken, where Dugan worked, fired five educators as a result of videos showing alleged mistreatment. Another Facebook video shot in May showed a daycare aid putting a hat on a toddler with force.
That aide was not indicted, the Prosecutor’s Office announced on Oct. 8.
Parents of toddlers in the videos have filed civil suits, claiming their children suffered physical and emotional abuse. One of the complaints pointed to a May 13 video, in which a teacher grabs the child by her feet, screams at her, “violently” picks the child off the ground and lifted the child over the fence.
In Friday’s release, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez urged anyone with knowledge of child abuse to report it to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families hotline at 1-877-NJ-ABUSE.