HOUSTON – As investigators continue searching for the gunman who robbed a Harris county day care Tuesday, parents are demanding answers. They want to know how a man with a gun could just walk into a building filled with children. It turns out, state regulations open day care doors to just about anyone.
But don’t tell that to Charlotte Watts. She’s the director of Jewel’s Learning Center in Houston’s Third Ward. Watts has one rule.
“The door is always locked,” explained Henry Wilson, the father of 3-year-old twins who attend Jewel’s. “You can’t get in without someone coming to open the door.”
Watts says her reasons are simple.
“To keep the bad guys out, so we can keep the good things going on, inside,” Watts said.
She was horrified by what happened at Stay and Play Day Care in Harris County Tuesday. Police said a man with a gun robbed an employee inside the center as children napped. The center’s front door was unlocked.
“I made a call this morning, to tell them, make sure those doors are locked,” Watts said.
You may be surprised to learn that in Texas day cares do not have to secure their doors. Instead, state rules only say that anyone who’s a danger to kids, has to be kept away from kids.
But is that really enough?
“I think yesterday was definitely a wake-up call,” said Carol Shattuck. She’s the president of the childcare resource agency Collaborative for Children.
Shattuck says when it comes to safety, parents should look closely at a daycare’s individual policies, and not just what the state does or does not require.
“I think you probably are going to see directors use their common sense, even if the standards do not require that doors be locked,” predicted Shattuck.
Not being able to just walk in to his children’s daycare is a small price to pay for Wilson.
“It’s worth it,” he said. “Especially when you hear what happened over there to those people.”
Watts says when it comes to safety, it’s too important, and too simple of a fix for her center not to do more than the state requires.
“We have to keep them as safe as possible,” Watts said. “It’s just no way around it.”
The director of Stay and Play, the daycare that was robbed, told KHOU 11 News that the center is upgrading its security. New locks and an intercom system have been ordered for the front door.
A spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which licenses daycares, says it appears Stay and Play was following state rules at the time of the robbery. Two state staffers were inside the center at the time of the robbery conducting an inspection.