Legislature gives final approval to 'Kaitlyn's Law'
by Gary D. Robertson, The Charlotte Observer, July 18,
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RALEIGH, N.C. - Legislation that would bar day care employees
from giving medicine to children without a parent's written
permission won the Legislature's final approval Friday.
The bill, which now awaits Gov. Mike Easley's signature, would
make it a felony if the employee gives medicine without
permission if the action seriously injures the child. In cases
where a child is unharmed, it would be a misdemeanor.
The legislation that had been approved Thursday by the House was
passed Friday by the Senate, even though the Senate's earlier
version had made both actions felonies. The House also expanded
criminal penalties to employees who work in preschool day care
in public schools.
The father of the infant whose death prompted the bill also
wanted the Senate's tougher penalties, but agreed the House
version was better than nothing.
"We're pleased with the outcome considering that had we
continued to push, we could have lost the bill completely," said
Richard Shevlin, whose 5-month-old daughter, Kaitlyn, died two
years ago Friday while in the care of an Alamance County day
The bill's Senate sponsor said trying to reach a compromise with
the House would have been difficult since an amendment to
eliminate the public school day care from the bill was soundly
defeated by the House.
"We felt that to take the public schools out of it would kill
the bill in the House," said Sen. Bill Purcell, D-Scotland.
The measure, called "Kaitlyn's Law," means a person convicted of
seriously injuring a child in such circumstances probably would
receive up to five years in prison.
The legislation would apply to illegal childcare providers along
with the 9,200 childcare facilities the state regulates. There
are about 1,000 day care facilities in public schools.
An autopsy determined Kaitlyn Shevlin died from sudden infant
death syndrome, but more tests showed she received "therapeutic
amounts" of a generic form of Benadryl. Prosecutors believe the
day care provider used it to quiet infants in her care.
"You do not come across (many) people who deliberately medicate
a child," said Peggy Ball, director of the state Division of
Child Development, which regulates day cares.
Josephine Burke, who ran the illegal day care, served four
months in prison on misdemeanor assault and child neglect
Anand Ramaswamy, the Alamance County assistant district attorney
who helped prosecute the case, said the bill still codifies the
penalties that a person already can receive for misusing
medicine on a child. He said having a standalone statute will
educate the public and make it easier to prosecute violators.
"People may have known it was wrong. Now they know it's a
crime," Ramaswamy said Friday.
In the bill, day care employees can give medication to a child
in a medical emergency without parental consent if the parent is
unavailable and after getting instructions from a health-care
Purcell said the legislation will send a message to day care
operators that they must give out prescription and
over-the-counter medicine properly.
If a worker drugs children only to sedate them, he said, "you're
going to be in serious trouble."
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