Thursday, September 10, 2015

Child left for hours in van at Rep. Justin Harris' state-funded pre-school

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2015 at 10:26 AM

click to enlarge JUSTIN HARRIS PRE-SCHOOL: His sign once thanked God for ABC funding. A more direct thanks was due Arkansas and U.S. taxpayers.
  • JUSTIN HARRIS PRE-SCHOOL: His sign once thanked God for ABC funding. A more direct thanks was due Arkansas and U.S. taxpayers.
40/29 reports, as did the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, that police and the state Department of Human Services are investigating a case in which a three-year-old girl was left in a van for about five hours outside Growing God's Kingdom, the state-funded pre-school operated by Rep. Justin Harris.

Police have indicated the child appeared to be in satisfactory condition. They told the D-G if the day had been warmer, she might not have survived.

Harris told the Democrat-Gazette that despite a safety routine, the driver of the van overlooked the child after delivering students.

Harris, a Republican, is not running for re-election next year, in part because of controversy surrounding our reporting of his "rehoming" of adopted children into the home of a sexual abuser. Subsequent reporting by Benji Harris Hardy and others raised questions about child-rearing techniques and school operation matters of Harris and his wife. Rehoming was made a felony by the legislature, but he otherwise drew no criticism from Republican colleagues.

Harris' pre-school, which operates almost entirely on public money, has been in controversy before for its emphasis on religion despite public funding. He has claimed that he now has his employees engage in religious activities only after paid school hours, a hazy differentiation that the state Department of Human Services has been unwilling to challenge. He's been critical of DHS and used his position as legislature to influence the agency.

The episode comes as a special prosecutor continues to review what action to take, if any, in another case of a child apparently left untended in a hot car. In that case, 18-month-old Thomas Naramore died. Police found him in response to a 911 call by his father, Circuit Judge Wade Naramore of Hot Springs.

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