Families' Lawsuit Claims Child Abuse At Church Day Care

ELLICOTT CITY, MD — In 2019, the families of five children aged 4 and 5 attended the Glen Mar Early Learning Center, an extension of the Glen Mar United Methodist Church in Ellicott City. The families believed their children were safe there, but according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of those children, an employee sexually abused them during naptime and possibly elsewhere at the facility.

The lawsuit does not list the employee as a defendant and the worker has not been criminally charged. Court papers implicate the school's former director, Lynda Celmer, who the families said was aware of the incidents but failed to report the abuse even though she was a mandatory reporter. The lawsuit says that Celmer told the families who reported the employee's actions that she would notify law enforcement and suspend the suspected abuser, but she did not. In fact, the lawsuit claims that Celmer had been informed of a different incident of abuse by another victim that had occurred during the previous school year involving the same employee.

The families involved in the lawsuit are demanding the Howard County Police Department and Maryland Office of the State's Attorney reopen the case and complete an investigation that they say to date has been "superficial and highly incomplete."

The police department declined to comment.

The families also say the former employee they have named as responsible for sexually abusing their children is at large and free to work in other school environments and has, in fact, been employed elsewhere in another day care.

Information released by the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll noted that at least seven children have recounted incidents of sexual abuse at the center and identified their abuser. Furthermore, other center staff members saw the employee behaving inappropriately toward children under their blankets during naptime, the firm said, and security footage confirms he acted inappropriately with children.

"Not only did the Glen Mar Early Learning Center enable and ignore the sexual abuse of several children over two years, but we are very concerned that the law enforcement response has been incomplete and inadequate, allowing (the employee) to work in other daycare centers," said Michael Dolce, partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, which represents the victims. "We do not understand why the Howard County law enforcement response disregarded such substantial evidence, including video and medical proof, failed to pursue additional leads and treated the victims' parents so poorly. Given that the safety of children was and is at stake, we expect a much more vigorous effort by law enforcement. These children and their families deserve better than they have gotten to date, and we hope this will now be taken more seriously."

Parents were told by the center that the suspect was removed from his position, but they were not informed that their children could have been abused, the law firm said. The families spoke anonymously, noting that they are "sickened and disappointed" at how their children's statements were dismissed and no arrests were made. In the complaint, it was disclosed that the suspected abuser was regularly left alone with the children, a violation of the church's "two adult rule."

"We have watched our child regress and struggle in ways that have been heartbreaking and terrifying; ways that professionals have advised us are cons...

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