A judge ruled Wednesday that part of a lawsuit alleging two teachers at an Agoura Hills preschool disciplined boys by pressing push pins into their legs will be decided by an arbitrator rather than a jury.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Howard Halm’s ruling applies to Little Scholars Inc., the former franchise owner of Tutor Time of Agoura Hills. In addition to Little Scholars, the mothers of four boys on March 9 sued its parent company, Tutor Time Child Care Learning Centers Inc., and teachers Rosa Nepomuseno and Jessica Morales.
Halm said his ruling also will apply to a second case filed by the parent of a fifth boy against the same school on June 8, after it is reassigned to his courtroom. It is currently before another judge.
Halm also ruled that even though part of the case will be in arbitration, he will allow all the parties to exchange information as they normally would in the meantime.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Robert Clayton said the arbitration clause was within the fee agreement that the school required parents to sign. He argued it was written in a way that would be hard for lay people to know they are giving up their constitutional right to take a grievance to court.
Clayton said he may ask a state appeals court to order Halm to deny Little Scholars’ arbitration motion.
The two lawsuits allege negligence, negligent supervision and hiring, failure to report abuse, assault and battery, breach of contract and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The adult plaintiffs are identified only as Nicole Z., Kim M., Debbie S., Krista L. and Ashley M. Their children also are plaintiffs and the suits seek unspecified damages.
According to the complaints, the five mothers all enrolled children under the age of 3 at the center in 2013 and 2014.
Unknown to the women, Nepomuseno and Morales used push pins to discipline toddler boys in their classrooms, the suit states. If a boy was deemed inattentive or failed to follow directions, the teachers would stick a push pin into the child’s legs, the complaints allege.
The pins were pressed deep enough to inflict pain and injury, according to the lawsuit, which further allege the teachers dubbed the punishment “pica pica.”
The written contracts the adult plaintiffs signed with the center stated that their children would be provided with “the best” in quality childcare; that only “non-physical disciplinary techniques” would be used; and that all suspected child abuse would be promptly reported, the suits state.
— City News Service