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Remember the failed Daycare Regulation bill? Now a child has died

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

If Kamden Johnson lived in a better state, one governed by better people, he’d be alive today.

Unfortunately, in his five short years on earth, Kamden found himself in Alabama, where people like Senators Larry Stutts and Shay Shelnutt and Representatives Jim Carns and Randall Shedd hold some power.

And because of those men and their power, along with their greed and their stupidity, five-year-old Kamden was left locked in a day care van for hours on a hot day earlier this week. Police believe he died in the van.

They only believe that to be true because that’s not where Kamden’s body was discovered. According to an story, it was found some three miles away from the day care, where, judging by the charges filed against day care worker Valarie Rena Patterson, police believe his lifeless body was dumped.

Patterson has been charged with manslaughter and abuse of a corpse.

The day care that Kamden attended, Community Nursery & Preschool Academy, was unlicensed and therefore not required to meet basic safety regulations.

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The reason it was unregulated is because it’s a “church-affiliated” daycare, and under Alabama law, those facilities are exempt from regulations regular day cares must follow.

Safety regulations like background checks on employees.

Had Community Nursery & Preschool Academy performed a basic background check on Patterson, it would have found, according to arrests dating back to 1991, including multiple charges of theft, failure to appear, fugitive from justice and no driver’s license. And the real kicker: a charge of negligent driving with kids in the car.

Patterson had only recently been hired by Community Nursery & Preschool Academy.

And the reason that day care wasn’t required to run a background check:

Stutts, Shelnutt, Carns, and Shedd.

Those men, along with paid lobbyists and paid advocacy group, The Eagle Forum, stood in the way of a bill that would have removed the church-affiliated exemption.

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“If the Legislature had the decency to pass HB277 (the Daycare Regulation bill) last year, Kamden Johnson would be alive today,” said former state Rep. Joe Hubbard, who was an outspoken advocate for the bill. “This daycare worker had a rap sheet a mile long. It’s common sense that a convicted felon should not be paid to work with children. But our Legislators placed the narrow interests of a handful of lobbyists above the health and safety of Alabama’s children. And a five-year-old little boy paid with his life.”

It’s criminal what these Legislators have done. Because they KNEW this was coming.

During committee meetings and through personal correspondence, they heard countless horror stories of children killed, injured and sickened by these shady daycare centers.

The very conservative, very Republican former Mobile districtIf Kamden Johnson lived in a better state, one governed by better people, he’d be alive today. attorney, John Tyson, traveled to Montgomery to tell lawmakers about a horrific fire he worked at an unlicensed day care. He pleaded with them to pass the Legislation.

And who wouldn’t pass it?

All it did was allow DHR to drop by regularly to ensure minimum standards – teacher-child ratios, proper equipment, required checklists, proper training, etc. – were being met by all daycares.

Want to know why these guys were against that?

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Well, there are two answers to this – the real one and the BS answer that they gave publicly.

The BS answer was that they were concerned about the government’s intrusion into a religious entity. These lawmakers, along with the “Looney Tunes” at the Eagle Forum, told people that this Legislation would allow DHR to control the daycares’ curriculum and would treat churches unfairly.

That was plainly false, and a specific protection against such was spelled out in the bill itself.

The real reason they were against it – and you’ll be shocked – was money.

See, getting a license costs money, because all of the unlicensed day cares would have to make improvements and hire staff in order to meet the minimum requirements.

Instead of buying safety, the churches got together, hired some lobbyists and bought lawmakers who killed the bill.

So, church-affiliated daycares get to keep packing poor children into unregulated death traps so they can rake in the Federal child care aid.

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The guy who was running a death-trap day care in Montgomery where 86 kids were sickened with staph was hauling in more than $1 million per year running four shady, unlicensed daycare centers. Imagine how much some others are making.

Because it’s always, always about the money in Alabama, especially if you can wrap a Bible around those dollars.

It can make lawmakers overlook the pleas from experts and the regulating agencies, from cops and even other churches. It can make them ignore stories of dead children, broken bones, long hospital stays and promises of certain death.

Stutts, Shelnutt, Carns, and Shedd ignored it all.

And now, a five-year-old is dead.

Kamden Johnson deserved better.


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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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