The state’s children’s welfare agency has received “multiple” additional reports of suspected abuse at the Bridgewater day-care center where a student intern is accused of sexually assaulting two young boys, as officials alerted parents in other communities where Kyle Loughlin had interacted with children.
Loughlin, 21, who was studying early childhood education at Bridgewater State University, worked at a campus day-care facility licensed to care for 30 children. According to police, he confessed this week to abusing the boys, who are 4 and 5 years old.
The day-care center, operated by the university, has come under scrutiny for its response to concerns raised about Loughlin’s behavior in recent weeks. A spokeswoman confirmed Friday that the school had notified state authorities that Loughlin may have abused other children.
“Parents have spoken to our police department as well as care-based areas of the campus to help them determine how to help their children,” said the spokeswoman, Eva Gaffney.
The Department of Children and Families declined to say how many reports have been filed.
The director of the facility, Judith Ritacco, has been placed on paid administrative leave as officials investigate her handling of the matter. In the weeks leading up to Loughlin’s arrest, teachers told Ritacco they were troubled by his conduct toward the two alleged victims, but she downplayed their concerns, police records indicate.
After a parent reported her fears that Loughlin had abused her son, Ritacco initially sought to handle the matter internally before notifying campus police the next day, according to the records.
The state’s Department of Early Education and Care, which froze enrollment at the center, said licensed day-care programs are required to “immediately report suspected abuse or neglect of children.”
The Bridgewater center was closed Friday and will remain closed next week to “take the necessary steps to improve the administration and oversight of the program,” the agency said in a statement.
The center must appoint an interim director in Ritacco’s absence, retrain staff on mandated reporting requirements, and review its intern policy to make sure students are directly supervised at all times.
“The ability of Bridgewater State University Children’s Center to reopen will be subject to its successful completion of all required interim corrective actions,” the agency said.
Loughlin has pleaded not guilty to rape and indecent assault. He is being held without bail until an April 13 hearing to determine whether he is too dangerous to be released until trial.
According to police, Loughlin said he was attracted to little boys and that the attraction had grown stronger the past few years.
“I don’t plan my actions,” he told police. “It’s an instinct.”
Loughlin previously worked at a YMCA camp in Hopkinton and at elementary schools in Sherborn and Bridgewater.
On Thursday, the MetroWest YMCA notified parents that Loughlin was a counselor at the Hopkinton Summer Day Camp in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014. He had no previous criminal record and passed a background check, the group said.
In its letter to parents, the YMCA said it prohibits staff from being alone with children where they cannot be seen by others.
As part of his studies at Bridgewater State, Loughlin also spent time as a classroom observer at Pine Hill Elementary School in Sherborn, school officials said. Superintendent Steven Bliss said Loughlin was at the school for a limited number of hours this March, and in March and December of last year.
School officials, working with police, have found no evidence that Loughlin’s behavior raised any concerns. He never had unsupervised access to children, Bliss said.
“Our investigation has revealed nothing in the way of suspicious activity or reported concerns thus far,” he wrote.
In addition, Loughlin was a classroom observer at the Mitchell Elementary School in Bridgewater in November 2013, according to officials.
Loughlin was arrested Tuesday after a mother told the university day-care center she suspected her son had been sexually abused there.
A parent who sends his daughter to the day-care center said Friday that he and his wife had met Loughlin a number of times, and found him “definitely strange.” But they assumed the regular teachers were watching over him, and didn’t worry much about it.
“My impression was that he wasn’t around the other children by himself,” said the parent, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter. “The other teachers were always there.”
But after learning that several teachers had raised concerns about Loughlin, the father said he did not understand why nothing was done.
“You need to act quickly on something like this,” he said.