The case of Simms and Sims, two former employees of the Orange County Child Care Center at the Taylor Education Administration Complex, has been partly resolved in Orange County Circuit Court.
Last week, Jenean Renee Simms, 34, a former child care worker, and Brookes Michelle Sims, former supervisor at the now-closed center, were scheduled for a three-day joint jury trial, but took plea deals instead.
Judge Dale Durrer sentenced Simms, a resident of Orange, to four months of active jail time for two misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The sentence also includes two years of supervised probation.
Earlysville resident Sims, 37, is set for sentencing in May on four counts: a felony charge of cruelty and injury to a child, a misdemeanor charge of not reporting child abuse, a felony charge of embezzling public funds from the school division and a misdemeanor charge of false entry and destroying public records.
As part of her sentence, according to court documents, she will be required to pay back $6,828 to Orange County Public Schools.
Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney Diana Wheeler O’Connell said the trouble began on April 24, 2019, when two young boys began “tussling” on the playground at the center.
Simms broke up the roughhousing by removing one of the children from the playground equipment. In the process, the boy bumped his head and his back was bent, O’Connell said.
Neither Simms nor Sims reported the matter to authorities or the child’s parents. O’Connell said Sims, the supervisor, told another employee, who had seen Simms pull the child from the playground equipment, not to write up an incident report and to wait and see if the child’s mother noticed anything wrong with her child.
O’Connell said Sims “did not report the incident as required by law, she did not notify the school nurse about the injury to have the child examined and she did not notify the parents that their child had been injured.
“It wasn’t until the next day when the child was too ill to come to school that she did report the matter to her supervisor. The supervisor immediately contacted the school nurse, Child Protective Services and the child’s parent.”
O’Connell added, “It should be stressed that everyone involved, with the exception of the two defendants, acted appropriately and immediately followed the correct procedures for reporting.”
She continued, “Because of the delay in reporting, the child was incorrectly diagnosed by a physician who did not know the child had sustained a head injury. The physician advised that this delay put the child at considerable risk for serious injury and possible permanent damage.”
Sims is scheduled for sentencing May 8. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty Fitzgerald is prosecuting the embezzlement and false-entries cases, and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Katie Fitzgerald is handling the child abuse crimes.
According to Fitzgerald, the abuse allegations were reported first. After Sims resigned, the embezzlement was discovered. Around the same time, the School Board announced it was closing the child care center in a move unrelated to the criminal charges. School Board chair Sherrie Page said the center was losing money and it had proven difficult to find qualified employees.