Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrest Jamie Smithmyer, a Manasota Beach Early Learning Center in Englewood employee, after a parent caught her on surveillance recording aggressively handling children at the day care.
“I see this stuff happen on the news all the time,” Rick Yabut said. “I really thought it would never happen to my kid.”
Rick Yabut’s 2-year-old son is one of the children seen on surveillance video from Manasota Beach Early Learning Center in Venice getting aggressively handled by Smithmyer. Yabut said he’s familiar with the former Manasota Beach employee.
“Every single day when I picked him up from school she was the single teacher,” Yabut said.
Deputies said a parent spotted Smithmyer’s aggressive behavior on the surveillance camera, and Yabut said that parent was there to enroll her child.
“If that parents wasn’t there, nothing would have happened” Yabut said. “Nobody would have known.”
Yabut said he and other parents had reported their concerns about Smithmyer to the staff and even had his son removed from her class.
“My wife knew there was something going on, but we didn’t know exactly because my son was terrified of this woman sometimes,” Yabut said.
Dr. Laura Streyffeler , a Fort Myers counselor, said a child’s negative reaction to a person of authority they’ve known for a while is a huge red flag.
“It hits my heart strings as a person and a mom and then as a professional,” Streyffeler said. “Trust your instincts, and trust your child. Young children don’t know about that level of manipulation and coercion and making that stuff up.”
Yabut is left without a day care for his son.
“We are hesitant about putting him in another day care,” Yabut said. “We don’t know who we can trust anymore.”
The sheriff’s office said none of the children in that video had major injuries.
Parents confirm this is where it happened, but the sheriff’s office said it’s withholding that information, citing the newly passed Marsy’s Law, which protects the identity of victims.