Two staff members at a Main Line preschool face criminal charges after being recorded physically abusing toddlers enrolled at the facility, according to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.
Allison Soria, 39, and Jessica Kochanski, 32, are both charged with endangering the welfare of children and simple assault in the incidents, which allegedly took place this summer at the Chesterbrook Academy location in Malvern, according to investigators.
“Every parent has the right to have peace of mind that when they leave their children with trained caregivers, that their trust is not abused the way these children were,” Charles A. Gaza, chief of staff for the District Attorney’s Office, said in a statement. He said the office and East Whiteland Township police would “continue to investigate these allegations.”
Soria’s attorney, William DeNardo of Plymouth Meeting, said Friday that Soria “vehemently denies the allegations put forth by the prosecution.” He said he hadn’t been provided the surveillance video that investigators say captured the assaults.
It was unclear Friday whether Kochanski had retained an attorney.
The investigation began in August, when township police received a report of suspected child abuse through a state tip line, according to court documents. Detectives met with the principal and staff at Chesterbrook, who showed them surveillance footage from the school.
One video recorded in July depicted Kochanski striking a 22-month-old child, pushing him off a table on which he had been crawling, court documents say. The toddler landed on the floor, striking the back of his head.
Kochanski appeared “annoyed, not alarmed," according to an affidavit of probable cause, and left the boy lying on the floor. School staff told detectives that Kochanski appeared “frustrated with the victim,” whom she had previously reprimanded for crawling on the table. The boy’s parents were told that he fell and that his injuries were accidental, according to the affidavit.
Soria’s charges stem from an alleged incident in August, when she was recorded striking a 17-month-old boy on the top of his head. Afterward, she brought the boy to a cot and dropped him on it face-first, the affidavit said.
Kerry Owens, a spokesperson for Chesterbrook, said in a statement Friday that the "well-being and safety of the children in our care is always our top priority; therefore, we were appalled to hear of the alleged rough treatment of children by our former employees. As soon as we were made aware of the allegations, we informed the parents and reported the allegations to the authorities, and these individuals immediately left our employment.
“We take employee misconduct very seriously, and we have zero tolerance for anyone who does not have children’s best interests at heart," Owens said. "We carefully screen potential employees and strive every day to create an environment where children come first. It is heartbreaking to think that anyone could ever mistreat young children under any circumstance. We are grateful that no physical injuries occurred during these incidents and we will continue to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.”