Reporting Joan Murray
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SUNRISE (CBSMiami) — Jeremy’s Law will be charged in a day care criminal case for the first time in Florida and most likely the first time in the country.
Jeremy’s Law is the toughest day care law in the country, protecting parents from intentional misrepresentations made by day care operators. The law will be applied in the case of four-year-old Jordan Coleman, who was allegedly left unattended in a hot SUV by workers at 3C’s Day Academy in Sunrise.
Investigators say the workers had taken Jordan Coleman and 7 other kids off-site to avoid detection by regulators because they had been cited before for overcrowding.
Cecily Roberts, 43; her daughter Camille Gordon and another worker 19 year old Paris Ward were all arrested and charged with aggravated manslaughter. Roberts is facing an additional charge of misrepresentation as outlined in Jeremy’s law which carries a maximum 15 year prison term.
The man behind the law, Mark Fiedelholtz spoke out Thursday.
“This case made me sick to my stomach and is the reason I am here today,” he said about Jordan Coleman’s death. “I want to tell Coleman’s family they are not alone.”
After his son Jeremy suffocated in a crib at an overcrowded Plantation daycare center, Fiedelholtz pushed for and was successful in getting Jeremy’s law passed in Florida in 1999. But he said he’s been disappointed that it hasn’t been used even though there have been numerous daycares cited for overcrowding.
“This doesn’t make sense, the law is on the books, use it,” said Fiedelholtz. “My son’s memory has been dormant for 13 years. That’s over. You awoke a sleeping giant.”
Fiedelholtz is pushing for passage of a Federal law modelled after Jeremy’s law.
“This is a crime bill. The work is already done. Our children’s lives depend on it,” Fiedelholtz said. “Greedy daycare operators who lie about how many children are being cared for aren’t nice people, they are predators.”
On the day his son Jeremy was dropped off at the licensed day care center, day care operator Christina Schwartzberg only showed Jeremy’s mom Julie Fiedelholtz two children in the day care area.
When Julie went to pick up Jeremy earlier than expected, the day care operator was gone on an errand. Jeremy was face down in his crib not breathing and lying in a pool of vomit and blood.
During this time, police found five infants, six one-year-olds and a two-year old in back rooms of the center, left with an uncertified assistant. This put the operator nine children over the state licensing limit.
Since there were no specific criminal laws on day care misrepresentation at the time, Schwartzberg was charged by the Broward County State Attorney’s Office with a third-degree felony, neglect of a child. In March of 2000, the day care operator pleaded no contest and was sentenced to house arrest only.
Following Jeremy’s death, Mark and Julie Fiedelholtz went on a nationwide campaign to guarantee that day care operators could never again intentionally misrepresent to parents or guardians the number of children in their care.
Jeremy’s law targets intentional day care misrepresentations, because this is a key factor in how day care operators overcrowd their day care. Jeremy’s law has been passed in New York and Florida. Below is a legislative time-line:
- 1998: Jeremy and Julia’s Law was passed in New York (Julia Haas was added to the bill who suffered a similar death)
- May 26, 1999: The Jeremy Fiedelholtz Safe Day Care Act passed by the Florida Legislature making it the toughest day care misrepresentation law in the country.
- July 17, 1997: Mark and Julie Fiedelholtz testified in front of the U.S. Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee
- February 2, 1999: Former Congressman Rick Lazio of New York introduces Jeremy Law as a Federal Law (H.R. 469). The bill never came up for a vote.
- October 4, 2000: Mark Fiedelholtz testifies in front of the House Subcommittee On Crime