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Woman sues York YWCA over son's alleged assault in bathroom

Written by Dylan Segelbaum/The York Daily Record | Aug 18, 2016 10:19 AM
York_ywca.jpg

A parent is suing the York YWCA over an alleged assault in a bathroom. (Photo: Chris Dunn, York Daily Record)

The lawsuit contends that bathroom supervision is a "chronic problem."

(York) -- A York County woman is suing the York YWCA, alleging that in 2015 a child with his genitals exposed pinned down her then-three-year-old son in the bathroom.

The woman argues the organization was negligent, adding that her son has suffered "severe and permanent psychological damage and emotional distress." The complaint was filed on Monday in the York County Court of Common Pleas.

Bathroom supervision is a "chronic problem" for the York YWCA, according to the lawsuit. That's because in March 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services cited the organization for failing to oversee children in the same place.

"An institution can respond to the state and say, 'OK, we're going to change,''' said Ben Andreozzi, an attorney who's representing the plaintiff in the lawsuit. "But sometimes, the unfortunate reality is institutions need to be hit in their pocketbook before they start instituting real change."

In a statement, York YWCA CEO Jean Treuthart said it conducted an internal review and "did not find any evidence of physical contact between the two children."

The organization shared information with the Department of Human Services, she said. The York YWCA, Treuthart said, plans to "vigorously defend" itself against the lawsuit.

"YWCA York takes parents' concerns seriously," Treuthart said. "We are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children in our care and we are dedicated to providing a supportive, positive environment where all children may safely grow and thrive."

The lawsuit gives the following account of the allegations:

On April 13, 2015, a teacher at the York YWCA Early Learning Center on East Market Street near South Pine Street in York discovered the two children in the bathroom.

When the woman who's suing picked her son up, she was not told about what happened. Instead, she found out because there was a report stuffed in his backpack.

Furious, the woman called the state to complain, and the Department of Human Services later cited the York YWCA.

It was not immediately clear how old the other child was at the time.

The statement from Treuthart references "allegations of peer-to-peer contact between a three-year-old and a child who had just turned four." Meanwhile, Andreozzi said he did not know.

Since then, the York YWCA created a "bathroom supervision policy" that will be reviewed with every new employee and during annual training, according to a plan of correction filed with the Department of Human Services. The employee was also disciplined.

Tina Phillips is the director of training at the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, a statewide child abuse prevention organization. She is not involved in the lawsuit.

For children that age, she said, "normal childhood exploration" could include if they are touching or rubbing their own genitals, or watching the physical differences between the sexes.

"When they start asking other kids to engage in sex acts, and certainly forcing kids to engage in sex acts, that's definitely a red flag," Phillips said, speaking in general terms.

In Pennsylvania, people can call in cases of suspected child abuse 24/7 to ChildLine at (800) 932-0313.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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