A Lancaster County pastor and teacher were recently sentenced in county court for the treatment of a toddler at a church daycare.
Robert Donald Smith, 44, was a pastor and Cynthia A. Ebersole, 62, was a teacher when the incident happened Nov. 16, 2015, at Grace Point Learning Academy, 110 Durlach Road, Clay Township – a daycare at Church of the Nazarene.
A parent witnessed Ebersole abuse a 14-month-old boy while caring for a group of toddlers.
The abuse report reached Smith, who oversaw all functions at the church. However, Smith only relocated Ebersole’s teaching assignment; he never reported the abuse.
Smith, as pastor and employee of a daycare/school, is required under state law to report all incidents of suspected child abuse to Pennsylvania ChildLine or police.
Smith and Ebersole both will serve two years of probation and other conditions as part of the ARD (accelerated rehabilitative disposition) program.
In court Monday, Smith said he should have reported the incident. He was charged with a misdemeanor count of failure to report.
As part of sentence, Smith is required to re-take mandatory-reporter training, and perform 90 hours of community service.
Ebersole, aside from probation, must take anger-management classes and perform 60 hours of community service. She was seen holding her hand over the child’s mouth as the child was fussing, according to police. Ebersole was charged with misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child.
Ebersole and her attorney represented in court that she is a veteran teacher and the incident was an isolated occurrence.
County Judge Howard Knisely told Ebersole it only takes one incident for a child to be hurt. Also, the judge said, babies and toddlers are common victims because their fussing can cause frustration for caretakers.
Assistant District Attorney Fritz Haverstick told the judge he doesn’t believe Smith had a sinister motive, but had a duty to report the incident to authorities in addition to any internal investigation he wished to pursue.
That is the purpose and function of the statute – so incidents of alleged abuse can be vetted by an outside, objective agency and a child’s safety is ensured, according to Haverstick.
Northern Lancaster County Regional police Detective Theresa Stauffer filed charges.
ARD is a program typically for first-time offenders. It does not involve a guilty plea and will not result in a conviction, if the program is completed.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; email@example.com; Twitter: @BrettHambright