Owner of local Montessori school under criminal investigation for alleged child abuse

Location of Desert Edge Childcare and Red Canyon Montessori, St. George, Utah, June 12, 2019 | Photo by Tyler Maffitt, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The owner of a Santa Clara child care facility and a Montessori school is the target of a criminal investigation and pending lawsuit by parents who claim their children were abused while in her care.

Analee Talbot, owner of the two companies, was charged May 17 with a Class A misdemeanor count of child abuse by the Washington County Attorney’s Office. She is also being investigated by the Santa Clara Police Department for similar allegations and is the subject of a Department of Child and Family Services investigation for alleged physical abuse.

Talbot did not return multiple messages by St. George News seeking comment. Her attorney, Ruth Shapiro, emailed the following statement Tuesday night:

“We are aware of the unsubstantiated allegations asserted against Ms Talbot. Seeing as there are ongoing legal proceedings, we hesitate to issue any sort of statement at this time. However, we can assert that the allegations are wholly without merit and trust that the legal process will affirm our feeling and knowledge of such.”

The original organization, Desert Edge Montessori, was a private state-licensed child care facility for preschool and kindergarten children where the abuse allegedly took place and which has since closed.

However, several parents with students formerly under Talbot’s care have expressed worry that potentially dangerous child care practices are being continued under a different name. That’s because two other businesses that look after children are located in the same building and share staff and ownership with the former Desert Edge Montessori.

In a response to a review on Yelp of one of the businesses – Desert Edge Childcare, which registered with the state in February 2017 – Talbot wrote that the companies are separate entities. St. George News confirmed that the registered agent for Desert Edge Childcare is listed as Analee Talbot’s husband, Vernon.

In addition to Yelp reviews, Desert Edge Montessori received a grade of D+ on the Better Business Bureau website, which shows two complaints in the last three years. One of the complaints, filed in 2017, claims that Desert Edge advertised itself as a nationally accredited Montessori school. A representative from the American Montessori Society told St. George News that the school has never been accredited. 

In the meantime, a new day care – Red Canyon Montessori – has opened in place of Desert Edge Montessori, registering with the state in January 2019. Red Canyon Montessori is also registered to Talbot. While Desert Edge Montessori was not accredited at the time of closure, the American Montessori Society was unable to say if that school was seeking accreditation at the time or if the new Red Canyon Montessori school is currently seeking accreditation.

Parents involved in the lawsuit spoke with St. George News about their experiences while their children attended Desert Edge Montessori on the condition of anonymity. St. George News agreed to provide anonymity to those who say they were affected.

M.S., whose child formerly attended Desert Edge, became suspicious after their son returned home from school with dark purple bags under his eyes and they allegedly discovered bruising on his upper arm. A former teacher’s aide at the school reached out to the couple to share what she witnessed while working for the school and how it was affecting her and the children.

That former aide told M.S. that their son’s arms had been squeezed until they bruised, that Talbot had allegedly spit in their son’s face and that Talbot had smacked their son’s face resulting in a bloody nose.

The child’s parents reached out to the Santa Clara Police Department and withdrew him from the school.

That’s also when M.S. reached out to J.S., another parent with a child attending Desert Edge Montessori, who had already heard from the former teacher’s aide. J.S. noticed bruises on their son’s arms and noted behavioral changes.

The former aide who reached out to both parents says she witnessed Talbot hit and spank her students.

“We’ve seen this pattern over and over now, and it’s frustrating that it’s taken so long and that apparently this has been going on for years,” J.S. said.

On one occasion, M.S. said Talbot sent a group text message to parents of children attending Desert Edge Montessori that the school had been accused of child abuse but that the teacher responsible, specifically referring to the former teacher’s aide, had been let go after allegedly pushing a child in front of a moving car.

Talbot served the former teacher’s aide with a cease and desist letter to prevent any further discussion of the matter. That teacher’s aide is not facing criminal proceedings.

Both parents allowed Iron County Child Protective Services to conduct interviews with their children. The agency found that both boys showed signs of trauma and referred the parents to a therapist. J.S. said their son, who was previously diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Both children have received, or are receiving, treatment.

Attorney Nathan Langston, who is representing both sets of parents in the civil lawsuit against Talbot, said more parents have since come forward and are interested in joining the suit.

“Certainly there will be strength in numbers,” Langston said. “Now that a criminal complaint has been lodged against Analee, it puts you guys on better sure footing to talk about it rather than risk legal action from a cease and desist situation.”

Updated June 6, 2:30 p.m. to reflect relationship connection of Vernon Talbot to Analee Talbot.

Email: rrichardson@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @AvereeRyann

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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