ORANGE—Two former Orange County Public Schools childcare employees—one a worker and one a supervisor—pleaded not guilty Thursday in court to abuse charges stemming from an alleged April 24 incident involving a 2-year-old.
The former childcare worker, Jenean Renee Simms, 33, of Orange, was charged, by direct indictment, with felony child endangerment and felony child abuse and neglect. Her former supervisor, Brookes Michelle Sims, 37, of Unionville, was charged with felony child endangerment and misdemeanor failing to report the suspicion of child abuse.
The alleged incident occurred at the Dailey Drive facility of Orange County Head Start, which also offered child care for children aged six weeks to kindergarten. Located in the Orange County Public Schools’ Taylor Education Administration Complex, the childcare facility recently closed due to financial constraints.
On Thursday, a trial by jury in the abuse case for both women was scheduled for Jan. 29-31, 2020, in Orange County Circuit Court.
Court appointed defense attorneys—Amy Harper for Simms and Michael Hallahan for Sims—did not object to the motion for a joint trial filed by Commonwealth’s Attorney Diana O’Connell.
“The trial of each defendant will require numerous witnesses who would otherwise have to appear at two separate trials,” O’Connell wrote in her July 3 motion requesting the joinder.
She told Judge Dale Durrer the prosecution expected the trial could exceed two days. Both defense attorneys disagreed.
“We think maybe a day, day-and-a-half,” Harper said.
O’Connell commented, “They may not have a big case, but we think ours will be lengthy.”
Outside the courtroom after Thursday’s hearing, Hallahan emphasized that his client, Sims, the supervisor, was not with the child when it was allegedly harmed.
According to reports, the 2-year-old allegedly hit their head on playground equipment while playing outside after Simms, the worker, pulled the child away to break up an incident with another child. The 2-year-old was reportedly taken to the doctor the next day and had a concussion.
According to court records, Simms, former child-care coordinator at the center, was released from her position May 9, around which time Sims also stopped working there.
Both women remain free on $5,000 unsecured bond and are required to report for pretrial supervision.