A Florida woman has been charged with five felony counts of child neglect following staff members at Bagdad Elementary School notifying the Department of Children and Families after they found “hundreds of bugs” inside a student’s backpack.
After wearing the same badly soiled clothes for a week, a second-grade student had her backpack examined by school staff members in the lunchroom where they found the bugs, according to a police report acquired by the Pensacola News Journal.
After having clothes provided by the school multiple times, smelling badly, showing signs of depression, frequently crying, and “having meltdowns” according to the police report, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) was called.
An investigation into the living conditions of the home of the student by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s office was conducted after being notified by DCF.
Deputies visiting the students home in Milton, Florida, on April 18, found broken windows, soiled mattresses, no edible food, and an infestation of roaches upon investigation, according to the police report.
“The roaches were on nearly every surface in the home,” said the police report. “On the children’s mattress, in the pots and pans in the kitchen, and inside the cabinets/fridge.”
Five Felony Counts of Neglect
The 33-year-old woman and mother of five, Jessica Stevenson, was charged with five counts of child neglect without bodily harm on May 3, and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000 for each charge, with a possible total of 25 years.
Stevenson was released on bail on May 4, according to jail records, and told ABC 3 that she never neglected her children and didn’t believe she did anything wrong.
Stevenson has a prior record of child neglect back in 2016, according to Santa Rosa County jail records.
“A mother in Milton arrested on 5 felony child neglect charges, we have a disturbing report from Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office detailing ‘filthy’ conditions in this home,” said Chorus Nylander of WEAR on Twitter.
A mother in Milton arrested on 5 felony child neglect charges, we have a disturbing report from Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office detailing “filthy” conditions in this home. I spoke exclusively with the mother, hear what she has to say @weartv pic.twitter.com/WlzUBaV7wr
— Chorus Nylander WEAR (@CNylanderWEAR) May 7, 2019
Her room was found to be “abnormally” clean compared to the rest of the home, with snacks, a flat-screen TV, and fresh bed linens, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel.
The Navarre Press reported that the floor was covered with cat feces and shattered glass, and bags of trash were scattered around the yard. The only food in the refrigerator was spoiled.
The children are between 5 and 14 years of age. According to the report, several of the children shared one bedroom where three soiled mattresses were found.
All five children have been removed from Stevenson’s care according to ABC 3.
Child neglect is defined as “failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child,” according to Florida state law.
Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said he found the amount of neglect to be very disturbing, according to ABC3.
A news crew from ABC3 was allowed into the home by Stevenson, where they found the strong smell of urine, and a large amount of cockroaches and other bugs inside.
But Stevenson says she is trying to clean up and resolve the bug problem, but has struggled to pay for extermination as a single mother with a low income.
“We have roaches, people all the time tell me everyone in Florida has roaches,” said Stevenson to ABC 3.
Stevenson’s next scheduled court date is on May 30.
Epoch Times reporter Simon Veazey contributed to this report.