Linda Chery-Valentin, founding director of Jamaica Plain’s Arc-En-Ciel Day Care Center and Montessori School, is facing felony charges after allegedly driving her car at a rector and a parishioner at Our Lady of the Cedars of Lebanon Church, where her daycare is located.
The charges against Chery-Valentin are now under investigation by state child care authorities. The daycare remains open for business and is not itself under any form of investigation, according to the school’s director and Chery-Valentin’s attorney.
“There’s nothing that happened. Nothing happened,” said Chery-Valentin in an interview with the Gazette, denying that she did anything wrong in the May 6 incident. “It’s awful. It’s awful what’s happening to me.”
Chery-Valentin was arraigned on May 15 on two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery, according to Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Jake Wark.
According to Chery-Valentin’s lawyers, Arc-En-Ciel for two years has had a lawsuit pending against the church claiming that it is trying to kick out the daycare center from 61 Rockwood St. The lawyers claim that the church violated a court order in that case by blocking Arc-En-Ciel from holding a May 6 open house, the incident that triggered the criminal charges against Chery-Valentin.
According to the police report, Chery-Valentin was angered because she was to hold an open house for her daycare, but the church parking lot had been closed for Mother Day celebrations and people trying to attend her open house were being turned away.
The police report states that Chery-Valentin drove her car at the alleged victims, who had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. She allegedly exited her vehicle and screamed, “I’m going to own this church when I’m done with you.” She then allegedly pushed and threatened to kill one of the victims, according to the report.
Chery-Valentin said in the Gazette interview that none of that happened. Instead, she said, she went outside when she received a call from a parent informing her people were being turned away from the open house. She said she was told by two men she didn’t know that she didn’t belong there on the weekends. Chery-Valentin said she grabbed a camera, took photographs of the men and left. She said the next thing she knew, she was getting a call from her attorney about the charges.
She added that the alleged incident does not have anything to do with the daycare center and it is operating as usual.
“My God, it’s terrible,” Chery-Valentin said of the situation. “But I have a great group of supporters.”
Chery-Valentin and Theo Koziol of Arc-En-Ciel sent the Gazette a letter to the editor apologizing for the failed open house, which the Gazette published on May 11. The letter did not mention any confrontation and did not explain what went wrong with the open house. The Gazette also published a profile article about Arc-En-Ciel on April 27. Chery-Valentin did not mention the lawsuit or any tensions with the church in a Gazette interview for that article.
Kathleen Hart, spokesperson of the state Department of Early Education and Care, which oversees daycare centers, said the agency is investigating the criminal case against Chery-Valentin.
“The Department of Early Education and Care has opened an investigation into the allegations against Linda Chery-Valentin and based on our findings, we will take action in accordance with department guidelines, as necessary, to ensure the safety and well-being of children in the Arc-En-Ciel Day Care and Montessori School program,” Hart wrote in an email to the Gazette.
Asked for more details about the investigation, Hart said only that the department stands by its statement.
Chery-Valentin is due back in court June 11.
Corrected version: This version corrects and clarifies the nature of the Department of Early Education and Care investigation and Chery-Valentin’s position at the daycare and school.