A teacher at an Ephrata area church is charged with abusing a toddler, and the church’s pastor is charged with not reporting the incident.
The incident happened Nov. 16, 2015, at Grace Point Learning Academy, 110 Durlach Road, Clay Township – a daycare at Grace Point Church of the Nazarene.
A parent witnessed Cynthia A. Ebersole abuse a 14-month-old boy while caring for a group of toddlers.
The abuse report reached Pastor Robert Donald Smith, who oversaw all functions at the church. However, Pastor Smith only relocated Ebersole’s teaching assignment; he never reported the abuse.
Smith, as pastor, is required under state law to report all incidents of suspected child abuse to police.
On Monday, Northern Lancaster County Regional police Detective Theresa Stauffer charged Ebersole, 62, of Denver, with misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child.
Smith, 44, of Ephrata, is charged with a misdemeanor count of failure to report.
Both were charged Monday and will be mailed summons to appear in court for arraignment. Bail will be set then.
Police outlined the abuse and chain of events that followed this way:
On the afternoon of Nov. 16, Ebersole was alone with a class of toddlers who were asleep, except for the 14-month-old.
A parent of another child saw the 14-month-old “throwing a fit” in the classroom. She then witnessed Ebersole slap the child three times in the face. Ebersole then, as the child continued to cry, held her hand over the child’s mouth.
The parent went to another church official, reported the incident, and that official went to the classroom. Ebersole’s hand was still over the child’s mouth. The child was breathing heavily and his face was red.
The official told Ebersole to stop and immediately reported it to Pastor Smith.
Pastor Smith, as overall administrator of the church and programs, decides all discipline matters.
Ebersole admitted to the abuse, describing herself as the “disciplinarian” of the classroom. She said she had daily “frustrations” with the child.
Pastor Smith suspended Ebersole for two days and had her relocated to a classroom with infants. He did not report the abuse to outside authorities.
The investigation is ongoing. Smith and Ebersole are presumed innocent.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @BrettHambright