DoD broadens day care center investigations after Fort Myer incidents

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Local,Virginia,Crime,Ben Giles

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered an expansion of an Army-wide investigation into hiring practices at military child care centers after two workers at a day care center at the Fort Myer military base in Arlington were charged with assaulting children.

An initial investigation into hiring procedures, most notably issues with background checks for potential employees, at the Child Development Center on the Joint Base Fort Myer-Henderson Hall led John McHugh, secretary of the Army, to order a branchwide review of all child care centers.

In October, The Washington Examiner first reported the multiple charges filed against two child care workers at the military base.

Shortly after the Army announced its investigation, Panetta expanded the order to cover all branches of the Department of Defense.

"As a department, protecting our service members and their families is paramount," Panetta said in a statement. "That includes doing everything we can to provide for the safety of children attending CDCs throughout the department, and ensuring they are provided with the highest quality care by dedicated professionals."

Sharon Blakeney, 47, of Seat Pleasant, was charged with four counts of simple assault of a minor, and Tonya Fagan-Clarke, 30, of Woodbridge, was charged with a single count of simple assault of a minor. One count of the crime carries a penalty of up to one year behind bars.

According to prosecutors, Blakeney roughly pushed her knee into a 2-year-old's back, carried him around a room by his arms, and later held a sticky rodent trap full of bugs up to the boy's face, among other acts.

Fagan-Clarke picked up an 18-month-old girl by her arm and dropped her on her stomach, according to prosecutors.

The coordinator and deputy at Fort Myer's child development center have been reassigned pending an investigation, and the center was shuttered in October, officials announced. Students have been moved to another center located on the base.

"An investigation was ordered to determine whether background checks were properly done at the time those employees were hired and whether required procedures were followed," said Col. Fern Sumpter, garrison commander at Fort Myer. "That investigation has just begun."

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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Ben Giles

Staff Writer - Crime Beat
The Washington Examiner