Lawsuit Alleges Children At YMCA Abused With Pickling Salt

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True

Alum, as a salt dissolved in water, is commonly used in the pickling process. Credit: Library of Congress, Flickr

Workers at a YMCA child care center in Pennsylvania are accused of disciplining children with alum in pickling salt -- causing an intense burning feeling in their mouths and stomachs.

Alum can also cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and choking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is considered corrosive when ingested directly.

Several parents in South Connellsville, Penn., which is 54 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, have filed a civil lawsuit against five workers at the YMCA Child Development Center for giving their children the salt as punishment.

The Uniontown Herald-Standard reports that mother Shannon Partridge was allegedly told by center's assistant group supervisor Rebecca DeWitt that a worker disciplined a 6-year-old with alum in January of last year.

In court documents quoted by the paper, Partridge says she questioned her own two children about any incidents involving alum. They allegedly told her about a white powder that hurt their mouths.

Partridge claims her children experienced unexplained stomach pain, vomiting and other symptoms, according to the court records. One of the children also allegedly had nightmares over the incident.

The Herald-Standard reports Partridge and fellow parents Brian and Janean Ansell, Jessica Harr, Rodney and Lori Humbertson, Amber Doppelheur, Ryan Timms and Hillary Hamborsky are asking a jury to the hear the case on behalf of their children.

The other parents share similar stories about their children being subjected to alum.

Defendants include individual YMCA employees Stephanie Griffith (accused of the January 2009 incident), Kristen Homes, Ann Lancaster, Derek Hillen and Kerri Trich as well as the YMCA itself.

The lawsuit charges the defendants with negligence, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Brian DelVecchio, a Pittsburgh attorney representing the parents, tells the Herald-Standard the lawsuit was filed after YMCA officials failed to come clean about what happened.

"The children can't speak for themselves ... We have to be the voice of these children," he tells the Herald-Standard.

Because of the pending litigation, YMCA sources are not commenting on the allegations.

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