Video: Drugging at day care?

updated 12/16/2009 8:02:18 PM ET 2009-12-17T01:02:18

Parents of an infant say she often seemed groggy after attending a church day care where some workers are accused of giving children an over-the-counter dietary supplement at nap time, their attorney said Wednesday.

Attorney Alan Statman represents the parents, Joseph and Andrea Coleman, in a lawsuit the suburban Cincinnati couple filed against Covenant Apostolic Church Inc. and unnamed day care workers at the church.

Springfield Township police have said they are investigating allegations that some workers at the church’s day care put melatonin in candy to help children sleep. They sent a letter Monday to parents and guardians of the 40 or so children enrolled at the day care to inform them of the investigation.

The Colemans’ complaint, filed Tuesday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, is seeking class action status to represent other parents whose children have attended the day care.

Messages were left at the Colemans’ home Tuesday and Wednesday, but Statman said he has advised his clients not to talk about the case.

“My clients did notice that their child seemed out of it, groggy when they picked her up from day care,” Statman said. “Being first-time parents, they just thought that was the way it was with infants.”

Statman said the girl is four to six months old, but he said he could not provide additional details about the child or children of the more than 10 parents he says have contacted him.

If the lawsuit is approved as a class action, the class could number in the hundreds, the attorney said.

“This is a very fluid situation, and we’re still trying to find out specifics,” he said. “We don’t know how long this went on, how many people were affected or how many people at the day care may have been involved.”

Messages seeking comment on the lawsuit were left Wednesday at the church and for pastor Shelly Hendricks. Hendricks has said that he discovered on Sunday that some children had been given melatonin by some staff members and immediately began to investigate. He has said two workers have been fired.

The police, who say the church has been cooperating, are referring calls on the investigation to the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office. Prosecutor’s spokeswoman Julie Wilson said Wednesday that the probe is ongoing.

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The lawsuit says that the Colemans believe their child and other children in the care of the defendants were “drugged and sedated with unauthorized medication and such information was concealed by the defendants.”

The lawsuit charges negligence by the defendants and battery, saying children suffered injuries including but not limited to dizziness, grogginess, headaches, abdominal discomfort and nightmares.

The suit seeks damages in excess of $25,000.

Melatonin is a hormone made by a small gland in the brain. It helps control sleep and wake cycles and is not FDA-approved or regulated, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site.

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