Morgan Hill preschool teacher arrested after sleeping pills incident

March 13, 2013 9:35:32 AM PDT
At least one parent has pulled her two children out of a Morgan Hill preschool after learning that a teacher had been arrested for allegedly putting sleeping pills in toddlers' sippy cups.

Police say 59-year-old Hollister resident Debbie Gratz had worked off and on at the Morgan Hill Kiddie Academy for five years and had worked in childcare for 20. At the academy, she was responsible for 10 children between the ages of one and two.

Friday morning, she was getting ready for their arrival when a colleague noticed something strange.

"She was prepping water for them and one of the other employees witnessed her putting something into these sippy cups," Morgan Hill police Sgt. Troy Hoefling said. "Not all of them, but some of them."

Police say she has admitted it was the adult sleeping pill Sominex. No children were given any pills the day she was spotted, but the incident is raising concerns that she might have tried it before and questions about how much she was trying to give the kids.

Gratz was fired immediately Friday morning. Police weren't notified until Monday afternoon, and Gratz was arrested at her home Monday night.

Police say it would have been better if they were called right away.

"We certainly would have appreciated it; we could have gone out there and obtained some of the statements of the people that witnessed it that day, we could have gathered some of the evidence," Hoefling said.

Bianca Flores's 2-year-old Caleb was in Gratz's care until two weeks ago. The academy did not tell her why Gratz was fired; she found out from her sister who saw it in the news.

"Sickening, sick to my stomach, I want to throw up," Flores said.

Caleb suffers from seizures; Flores says she's taking him to the doctor to be checked out in case they might have been related to being given Sominex. She says she thought Gratz loved Caleb.

"I'm not angry, I'm just sad, disturbing, I don't know what to think," she said.

Rose Chin, who owns and runs the Morgan Hill Kiddie Academy, issued a statement saying "The safety and welfare of children is our top priority.... We have an exceptionally qualified staff of teachers who have chosen early childhood education because of their love of working with children."

Gratz willbe facing charges of felony and misdemeanor child endangerment. She is expected to be arraigned Wednesday.


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