In Illinois, the Des Plaines Police Department has arrested three employees of the Kiddie Junction day care facility after allegedly discovering that the women gave children gummy bears laced with the sleep aid melatonin without parental consent. Ashley Helfenbein, 25, Jessica Heyse, 19, and Kristen Lauletta, 32, were charged with endangering children and battery. The battery charge is clear since the parents thought that they were paying for Kiddie Junction, not Kiddie Junkies. The endangerment charge could result in some challenges.
Police say that the day care workers wanted “to calm them down before nap time” with the use of the melatonin.
They allege at least two occasions of the use of melatonin.
One issue that could arise is the low-risk of melatonin. The Illinois statute reads in pertinent part:
Endangering the life or health of a child.
(a) A person commits endangering the life or health of a child when he or she knowingly: (1) causes or permits the life or health of a child under the age of 18 to be endangered; or (2) causes or permits a child to be placed in circumstances that endanger the child's life or health. It is not a violation of this Section for a person to relinquish a child in accordance with the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.
Does it endanger the life or health of a child to take melatonin? Various sites list melatonoin as probably safe for child though not necessarily for multiple doses.
Nevertheless, this was an unauthorized act and a court is likely to read the concept of endangerment broadly.
What do you think the appropriate penalty should be if these women are found guilty?