Santa Clara school involved in child abuse allegations closes its doors

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

ST. GEORGE — The Red Canyon Montessori school in Santa Clara, the owner of which is under investigation for alleged child abuse and neglect, permanently closed its doors Thursday.

Ruth Shapiro, the owner’s attorney, said the closure stems from the “improper, aggressive behavior” of an unidentified news reporter. Sergeant Jaron Studley, with the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department, confirms there were no calls made to the police department regarding the alleged incident, and neither St. George News nor The Spectrum newspaper had any reporters present at the school.

“The children’s safety and care is of the foremost concern, and when you have rogue reporters or aggressive behavior like that, they really are left with no choice,” Shapiro said. “It has nothing to do with any of the unsubstantiated allegations that are being made.”

The Washington County Attorney’s Office charged school owner Analee Talbot with a Class A misdemeanor count of child abuse May 17. She is also being investigated by the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department and Utah Department of Child and Family Services for similar allegations.

Parents were asked to retrieve their children around 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Shapiro said it is her understanding that Thursday was the childcare’s last day in operation.

Talbot sent a text to parents around 4 p.m. to inform and thank families for their time at her school.

“Today, I feel defeated. And devastated and unsure of what the future will hold, but I want to take time to thank each and every one of you,” Talbot wrote. “I can not hardly type this out, through the tears and deep sorrow that I feel, that I did not get to even properly say goodbye to them or to many of you.”

Talbot said she could not allow anything to “jeopardize the safety of our school.” Parents who received the message offered their support, saying – in part – that they “will always remember all of the memories and good times.”

Pete Rognli, the parent of a student, said his family looked for a long time to find quality education when relocating to Southern Utah and found “a really good school” in Desert Edge Montessori, currently known as Red Canyon Montessori.

He said despite moving to Utah – a state that is ranked No. 51 in per-pupil spending – he found a community that values education. There are a lot of parents who are grateful for Red Canyon Montessori, Rognli said, adding that he does not believe Talbot is a threat to children.

“I think without them in this community, I think most parents would be hard-pressed to find anything of that caliber, because it’s certainly a need here.”

Flyers with a photo of Talbot telling people to “beware” of her were posted around Santa Clara Friday evening. The flyers call for parents of other potential victims to contact the attorneys who are representing parents and victims of alleged abuse — Mark Barlow and Nathan Langston from the McMullin Legal Group.

Read more: Lawyer: More parents come forward alleging child abuse at Santa Clara school, child care

There are currently five families involved in a pending civil suit against Talbot, which is comprised of allegations of child abuse and negligence, defamation and more. Langston met with a group of 16 parents and teachers June 20 to discuss additional complaints.

In an earlier statement, Shapiro said the allegations were the first of their kind, but Langston disagreed, citing an instance in 2017 when a parent sought legal counsel after alleged instances of neglect prompted her to seek medical treatment for her child and withdraw the student from Desert Edge Montessori.

Shapiro said both allegations stem from disgruntled individuals. She asserts that the 2017 allegations were precipitated by a parent who was unwilling to pay for delinquent fees.

“The parent made threats of pursuing legal action, the basis of which we did not know,” she said. “Eventually the parent just went away. … It was never pursued when my client, Desert Edge, graciously agreed not to pursue collection against that parent.”

Santa Clara-Ivins Police Detective Nick Tobler is the lead investigator on the case, and he is also looking into possible harassment charges against the person or persons responsible for posting the flyers.

Talbot is scheduled to attend court for an arraignment July 12 beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Email: rrichardson@stgnews.com 

Twitter: @STGnews | @AvereeRyann

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

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