Lawsuit filed over used condom on playground

3-year-old girl put condom in mouth, tested positive for gonorrhea

Author: Adrienne Moore, Weekend anchor, reporter, amoore@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 27 2013 01:09:54 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 28 2013 01:28:33 AM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A local day care center is being sued by a Jacksonville family after a 3-year-old girl picked up a used condom on a playground and put it in her mouth.

The condom tested positive for gonorrhea.

The day care is part of a Head Start program at the city’s Robert F. Kennedy Community Center and Park on Ionia Street, which is run by the Jacksonville Urban League.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday by attorney Rick Alexander, Tiesha Sanders said she is seeking compensation for medical expenses, damages and future pain and suffering.

"I want somebody to pay for it,” said Sanders. “Because a condom shouldn't be on where 3-year-old’s play at,” she continued.

The property is owned by the city and open to the public when the daycare is closed. For Alexander, it’s a red flag.

“I think the whole process is set up to fail,” said Alexander. “They're using a public park where they have exclusive access for a while and then it’s wide open at any other time and anyone can have access to do whatever they want to do there and I think it's a bad idea,” he added.

Last year, doctors put Sanders now 4-year-old daughter, Takaya, through a series of invasive tests to make sure she hadn’t contracted HIV or any other diseases after putting that used condom in her mouth. She recently received the news she’d been praying to hear.

“They were negative, everything came back good,” said Sanders.

In October, a Channel 4 investigation prompted the Department of Children and Families to take a closer look at the facility. DCF found the daycare violated the Florida Code of Childcare Standards.

Current state law didn’t mandate a fine in that initial investigation, but DCF told daycare operators they needed to clean the playground area every morning to prevent a similar incident.

In a January 17 inspection, DCF found a second violation with the facility’s fence. DCF reports show the fence has a gap, allowing anyone to have access to the daycare property – something officials missed in previous inspections. In fact, DCF says the fence was left unfixed until February 21, resulting in fines that will cost the daycare over $400. Two re-inspections in January also found litter in the outdoor play area, resulting in a $25 fine.

Sanders sees this as a slap on the wrist, especially after what her little girl had to go through.

"What if she would've come up with HIV or something like that?” said Sanders. “They still would've gotten away with that? It would've just been swept under the rug? I don’t find that that is fair,” she continued.

“We're concerned about all of our children,” said Jacksonville Urban League President, Richard Danford. “We have taken additional steps to ensure safety of all of our children. We do have restrictions because it is a city owned property," he added.

Takaya now attends a new daycare, but her mother says she still struggles with what happened.

"It still bothers me a bit because I always call the school to see how she's doing,” said Sanders. “And I call almost every day.”

Once the Jacksonville Urban League is served with the lawsuit, it will have 20 days to respond.

W'eve received a lot of feedback from viewers about this story since our investigation started back in October -- primarily about the day care not being fined by DCF for the violation of that condom being on that playground.

According to DCF spokesman John Harrell, that was the first time the day care had that kind of violation, so it only resulted in a warning. He said the agency is bound by law, which sets the rules and the amounts for fines. He said a change in those regulations can from officials in Tallahassee, which could come if enough members of the public talk to their elected officials and demand change.