ST. GEORGE — Parents are looking for new child care options after the closure of a local Montessori school and day care.
Analee Talbot – owner of Desert Edge and Red Canyon Montessori – pleaded not guilty to a class A misdemeanor count of child abuse from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on June 26. Students were sent home early the next day, according to Talbot’s attorney, Ruth Shapiro, who also said it was her understanding that was the child care’s last day in operation.
Talbot sent a text to parents hours later 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.”
Parents involved in a pending civil suit against Talbot spoke with St. George News toward the beginning of June about their experiences while their children attended Desert Edge Montessori on the condition of anonymity.
M.S., one of the parents of a child who formerly attended Desert Edge, said they 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.
Shapiro said the allegations of abuse stem from disgruntled individuals, including a parent who was unwilling to pay for delinquent fees, and that recent accusations surfaced following the termination of a day care employee.
Despite complaints from some parents, Casey Unrein said neither he nor his son, who attended Red Canyon Montessori for about a year, had any issues. Since the closure, Unrein said finding an equivalent day care has been “a pain.”
Unrein said Red Canyon Montessori offered his son an education-based environment that was “more friendly” and offered “more contact” with the teachers than any other experiences they had before – or since.
Unrein said his son always came home happy and loved his teachers and the friends he made while attending the school. His son was able to interact and develop friendships with kids of all ages, he said, as the school taught the older children to lead by example as they acted as “group leaders.”
For his family, Red Canyon Montessori offered high-quality education and care that Unrein said he has not been able to find anywhere else thus far.
Talbot was “gruff” with parents, he said, but he added that his understanding was that she had bad experiences with parents who coddled their children and couldn’t accept their children “weren’t good all the time.” He said Talbot’s main concern was the children, and she expected the parents to “catch up.”
“She was very straightforward and quick to answer, but I was never concerned about her and my children.”
The school also fit with Unrein’s schedule and allowed his son to learn and grow at a price they could afford.
“As far as the economy goes, that school was filling a big hole in St. George that I would assume a majority of the parents that went there really appreciated,” he said. “It’s sad to have had that disappear – at least prior to a conviction, prior to anything official.”
Pete Rognli, another parent, previously told St. George News that his family also looked for a long time to find quality education. He called Desert Edge Montessori a “really good school,” adding that he did 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.”
Unrein and Rognli are not alone, as other parents have also expressed concerns on social media about their difficulties in finding new – and comparable – child care accommodations.
Santa Clara-Ivins Police Detective Nick Tobler is the lead investigator on the case against Talbot. He is also looking into possible harassment charges against the person or persons responsible for posting flyers around Santa Clara with a photo of Talbot telling people to “beware” of her.
The flyers called 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. Several families are involved in a pending civil suit against Talbot, which comprises allegations of child abuse and negligence, defamation and more.
Langston said the number of people who have come forward is concerning, but it helps him to know that he’s “on the right track.”
Talbot is scheduled to appear in court for a roll call hearing on Aug. 14 at 9:30 a.m.
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