Daycare teacher accepts plea for attempting to drug kids

May 6, 2013 by

The Hollister woman who tried to slip a sleep-aid drug into children’s drinks at the Morgan Hill daycare facility where she worked pleaded no contest to attempted child endangerment at South County Courthouse on Thursday.

Deborah Gratz, 59, faces up to three months in Santa Clara County Jail for each of the five misdemeanor counts to which she pleaded no contest. Superior Court Judge Kenneth Shapero notified Gratz that pleading no contest is the same as pleading guilty.

As part of the settlement agreement with prosecutors, the court dismissed five counts of assault with which she was charged initially.

Gratz’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 5 at South County Courthouse. She is out of custody.

About two months ago, a fellow teacher at Kiddie Academy Daycare, 15750 Monterey Road, reported seeing Gratz slip an unknown substance into the sippy cups of about 10 toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2, police said. The children were under Gratz’s care at the time, and Gratz had worked at Kiddie Academy since 2007.

Staff at Kiddie Academy determined that Gratz had placed Sominex, an over-the-counter sleep-aid medication, in the children’s drinks, police said. The staff fired Gratz, and reported the attempted drugging to police.

None of the children consumed the substance, but police served a search warrant at her home March 11 and found unspecified evidence related to the incident, authorities said. Police arrested Gratz at her home.

Gratz’s attorney, Brian Worthington, advised her not to speak to the media outside the courthouse following her hearing Thursday. But Worthington noted that her behavior leading to the charges was a “one-time mistake,” and medical experts agreed her actions were unlikely to cause significant harm to the 1- to 2-year-old children.

“Ms. Gratz’s behavior in this (incident) is far outside the normal realm of her behavior,” Worthington said.

Police have said that Gratz has worked in the childcare field for about 20 years, and Worthington noted she had a “spotless record” before the incident in March. He added that Gratz has decided not to pursue similar work in the future.

The parents of several of the children who Gratz tried to drug attended the hearing Thursday. The mothers of two girls who attended the facility, each about 2 years old, said they think Gratz deserves jail time, and they wish the court could have forced her to resolve some unanswered questions.

“We want to know if she’s done this before, and how often she’s done it,” said one of the mothers. Both declined to provide their names after the hearing.

One of the children had been attending Kiddie Academy for about 10 months, and the other for about a year, the mothers said. They both said during that time their children often had trouble sleeping at night, but almost immediately after Gratz was arrested the children’s normal sleeping habits returned.

“A lot of parents noticed their kids were acting differently,” one of the women said.

She added she would have liked to have heard Gratz explicitly say she was guilty at the hearing, instead of pleading no contest.

“It’s still our children’s lives she messed with,” the mother said. “It’s caused a lot of stress for the families, and for the kids.”

via Daycare teacher accepts plea for attempting to drug kids – Free Lance News : Articles From Gilroy.

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