HOUSTON The state agency that regulates the licensing and registering of home day cares says when it comes to background checks of day care providers, there s one crime that would not necessarily prevent someone from running a facility.
Arson is not an automatic bar to getting state authorization for operating a day care, said Patrick Crimmons, the media relations manager of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Instead, Crimmons said it would trigger a risk evaluation if it appeared in someone s juvenile or criminal history.
The Texas Administrative Code specifically forbids people from working at day care centers who have a history of certain crimes, like robbery, public indecency and cruelty to animals, but according to the state s interpretation, arson isn t mentioned.
Some legal experts say that interpretation is up for debate. While arson isn t mentioned, 11 News legal expert Gerald Treece said that conduct that would harm others is included.
We re not talking about arson per se, said Treece. We re talking about deadly conduct, which is covered in Title 5.
Jessica Tata, the woman accused of leaving her day care unattended when a deadly fire broke out, was a registered day care provider.
As 11 News was first to report, Jessica Tata was involved in a fire at her school in Katy back in 2002. Our news partner, the Houston Chronicle, later reported on documents it obtained showing Tata confessed to setting that fire at Taylor High.
The state said Tata s juvenile case never showed up in her background check to become a registered day care provider, though they weren t sure why.
All of this troubles attorney Mike Gallagher, who is representing one of the families who lost a child and had another severely injured in the blaze.
I think this points out that our licensing process is flawed, said Gallagher. I think it s something our legislature should address.