FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Parents Demand Police and Prosecutor Reopen Inadequate Investigation as
Former Teacher Remains Free Despite Substantial Evidence
HOWARD COUNTY, MD – The families of five children between the ages of four and five have accused the Glen Mar Early Learning Center of the Glen Mar United Methodist Church, and the school’s former director, of enabling a predator to sexually abuse their children in 2019. The families are calling on the Howard County Police Department and Office of the State’s Attorney to reopen and thoroughly complete an investigation that, to date, has been superficial and highly incomplete, leaving the former teacher at large and free to work in other school environments.
The five children and their parents announced today a lawsuit implicating Miguel “Mike” Martinez, a former Glen Mar employee who previously worked at least one other day care center in Maryland and is believed to have work more recently in Delaware. As detailed in the 15-count complaint, two other families warned the school’s director, Lynda Celmer, about Martinez’s treatment of children in 2018. Despite assuring those families that she would alert law-enforcement authorities and suspend Martinez, Celmer failed to do either, allowing at least five additional children to be sexually abused. Both Martinez, known to the children as “Mr. Mike” and Celmer were subsequently terminated only when the Church’s Board of Directors became aware of the allegations in 2019.
Despite ample evidence, the Police Department and State’s Attorney Office for Howard County failed to charge Celmer for not reporting suspected child abuse in 2018 and withholding evidence about those abuse complaints during the first two months of authorities’ 2019 investigation. Similarly, Martinez has not been charged despite compelling evidence against him, including:
- Detailed accounts from the families of at least seven children, all of whom described to their parents–and, in some instances, child welfare and law enforcement officials as well as mental health professionals–actions amounting to sexual abuse during naptime and identifying Martinez as their abuser;
- Accounts from other Center staff members who witnesses Martinez touching children under their blankets during naptime; and
- Security camera footage in which Martinez is seen touching multiple children, in some instances beneath their blankets, despite his denials to police of exactly that touching. (The footage was obtained despite the school’s dangerously inadequate surveillance system.)
“Not only did the Glen Mar Early Learning Center enable and ignore the sexual abuse of several children over two years, but we are very concerned that the law enforcement response has been incomplete and inadequate, allowing Miguel Martinez to work in other day care centers,” said Michael Dolce, Partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, which represents the victims. “We do not understand why the Howard County law enforcement response disregarded such substantial evidence, including video and medical proof, failed to pursue additional leads and treated the victims’ parents so poorly. Given that the safety of children was and is at stake, we expect a much more vigorous effort by law enforcement. These children and their families deserve better than they have gotten to date, and we hope this will now be taken more seriously.”
The complaint, filed in the Circuit Court of Howard County, Maryland, carefully details an alarming degree of willful negligence by both the Early Learning Center itself and Lynda Celmer. The plaintiffs – the child victims, their mothers and fathers – filed the lawsuit anonymously and will ask the Circuit Court judge to allow them to proceed that way in order to protect the identity of the victims.
“I am incredibly frustrated that in a case involving young children, we as parents were treated as criminals, as though there was an ulterior motive, rather than simply being a voice for our children,” said the parents of one of the child victims. “Howard County Police Department’s mission states ‘Integrity, Pride, and Community.’ They have lost any and all integrity, showed zero pride in enforcing the law and lost all hope of bringing the community or my family any closure.”
Martinez is believed to have been removed from his position between late March and early April of 2019. However, parents were not notified by the school that their children could have been sexually abused or the potential risks stemming from Martinez’s employment until a month after his departure. The families have reason to believe that, subsequent to his stint at Glen Mar, Martinez worked with children in the area of Dagsboro, Delaware.
“The way that our concerns were handled by the Howard County Police Department is disheartening, to say the least. My child was molested and somehow, we were treated like we were the problem,” said another victim’s parent. “The police are supposed to serve and protect our communities and they have failed one of our most vulnerable populations, our children. Beyond the irreparable damage done to our family, our concerns lie with the families of other children who may not yet know of the potential their children were abused. Martinez worked with children for at least six years and is still able to work with children today. How many other times has he done this?”
The short- and long-term effects of prolonged sexual abuse of children on both the child victims and their parents are well-documented. In their developmental years, abused children are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and stress disorders; experience behavioral problems; suffer developmental delays, psychosomatic disorders, post-trauma symptoms such as engaging in premature sexualized and promiscuous behaviors, poor self-esteem or academic problems; develop substance abuse, eating or sleep disorders; and struggle with above-average peer relationship problems, among other harmful impacts. Learning that one’s child has been sexually abused is known in mental health medicine to inflict severe and long-lasting psychological distress, mental health disorders and other such harm on the child’s parents, potentially provoking such symptoms as: clinically-significant depression and/or anxiety, rage, agitation, irritability, humiliation, hypervigilance as to the child’s ongoing safety, fear, despondency, mistrust of others, damage to other relationships, distressing damage to the parent-child relationship and damage to religious faith.
“Our family is sickened and disappointed by the Howard County Police Department's early and continued dismissal of clear statements made by several children over the past year regarding the sexual abuse suffered at the hands of Mr. Martinez,” said a third victim’s parent. “We have watched our child regress and struggle in ways that have been heartbreaking and terrifying; ways that professionals have advised us are consistent with the type of abuse our child described. The Department is aware of our child's dramatic behavioral changes, as well as our child's vivid, detailed statement regarding the abuse. The Department's failure to investigate, refusal to support the children and disrespectful dismissal of the parents of reporting children is disgusting and unforgivable.”
As detailed in the complaint, Martinez regularly being left alone with the children violated the church’s “Two Adult Rule” policy, which requires two adults in the room for every activity involving children. The violations of this policy make clear that the Center failed to properly implement or provide training for their administrators, staff, faculty and volunteers consistent with the applicable standard of care and in violation of law.
Among the counts brought against the Glen Mar Early Learning Center, the Glen Mar United Methodist Church and Lynda Celmer are several forms of negligence, including the retention of Martinez and failure to provide, maintain and operate a reasonably safe educational environment that prevented risk of sexual abuse. The families seek damages in order to help manage many of the repercussions frequently associated with abuse: costs of medical, psychological and psychiatric evaluation and care and medications; costs of vocational, rehabilitative, occupational and physical therapies; loss of earning capacity and future lost earnings; cost of transportation to and from health care providers; educational expenses; excess child care expenses; and the cost of parenting and family therapies, among many others.
The victims and their families are being represented in this case by the Sexual Abuse, Sex Trafficking and Domestic Violence practice group at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. The group is led by Michael Dolce and Takisha Richardson. A highly regarded trial lawyer and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse himself, Dolce has dedicated his career to securing justice for survivors of sexual crimes. He was also instrumental in convincing the Florida legislature to repeal the state statute of limitations for civil and criminal prosecution of child sexual battery. Prior to joining Cohen Milstein, Richardson was an Assistant State Attorney in Florida and Chief of the Special Victims Unit of the State’s Attorney’s office, where she directed the prosecution of crimes against children and the elderly and sexually motivated offenses.
About Cohen Milstein
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is a national leader in plaintiff-side class action litigation. As one of the premier law firms in the country handling major complex lawsuits, Cohen Milstein, with more than 90 attorneys, has offices in Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Palm Beach Gardens, FL; and Raleigh, NC. For more information about the firm, please visit http://www.cohenmilstein.com or call (202) 408-4600.
Dean Pearce/ 630-723-7490