I-Team Exclusive: Cary police investigating misconduct claims at unlicensed preschool

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Investigators with Cary Police Department are "actively" investigating claims of alleged inappropriate touching by a teenage assistant at Cary Church of God Preschool.

In a letter obtained by the ABC11 I-Team, school administrators alerted parents on May 20th about a case of "sexual misconduct" that allegedly took place in April, but the letter stated the case was "closed." Several parents and teachers reached out to the I-Team saying that was not the case, and the I-Team then took those concerns to police.

"I would more use the term 'inactive' or 'on hold' to describe the investigation," Captain John Szymeczek tells ABC11. "With the evidence we had, we weren't able to proceed with a criminal prosecution, but we didn't conclude that something criminal didn't happen."

According to Szymeczek, investigators now may be gathering more evidence as teachers and parents are claiming to police and ABC11 that there may be at least two more potential victims.

"I would highly encourage anyone with any specific information regarding a crime of this nature to immediately report that information to the Cary Police Department," the Captain writes in a June 4 email to parents and school administrators. "I would remind each of you that North Carolina has a 'duty to report law,' meaning if you have specific knowledge that a crime has been committed and fail to report that information, you may incur individual criminal liability."

Frank Hirsch, an attorney representing the preschool and Cary Church of God, tells ABC11 administrators "stand ready to cooperate with any investigation of credible and detailed allegations." Still, Hirsch calls the recent claims of more victims "new" and "non-specific" and he said no witnesses nor victims have "surfaced."

The alleged suspect no longer works at the school.

"The Cary Church of God Preschool is a secure child care facility which takes the safety of the children under its care with vigilance," Hirsch asserts. "Parents are encouraged to communicate with the preschool as any needs arise. The preschool does its best to keep parents informed of any concerns."
The continuing investigation by Cary Police Department into the misconduct allegations is also raising concerns about state licenses for preschools and other child care centers; the Department of Health and Human Services has no record of any license or even an application for a license from Cary Church of God Preschool.

State officials also said they're "aware" of the situation at the preschool and are "considering next steps."

MORE: Parent checklist for choosing a safe child care facillity

North Carolina statutes require child care providers to get a license if they plan on providing care to at least three children under 13 for more than four hours a day on a regular basis.

The regulations include strict rules and high standards on health and safety, nutrition, supervision, student-teacher ratios, staff development and parent-teacher communication. Of course, licensed centers are also subject to unannounced inspections.

According to DHHS, there are even mandates on how to communicate with parents and when it is appropriate to do so. The law also requires most providers to show the license in a visible location; religious-sponsored child care centers do not have to post the license, but they must make it available for parents upon request.

Teachers at the Church of God Preschool tell the I-Team they were operating a full 10 hour schedule from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. even without a license. The attorney for the church said it was a "glitch" that the preschool didn't have a license.

The preschool has since reduced its operating hours to 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., which at four hours a day does not require a state license.
Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.