Child Care Provider Who Abused Autistic 4-Year-Old Won’t Face Jail Time

Dolores Zabek of North Adams, Massachusetts, was recently found guilty of abusing a 4-year-old autistic child under her care in 2015. This shocking behavior only came to light after another child under Zabek’s watch created a video documenting the incident.

In the video, Zabek, while wearing sandals, can be seen kicking the young boy in the head twice. She proceeds to kick him once in the stomach and then slaps him on his rear twice.

According to Zabek’s attorney, she admitted to giving the child a “gentle tap of her foot” to reinforce that it was nap time. “No physical harm was done to the child,” the lawyer argued.

Zabek has owned and operated Doty’s Dare Care in her home for nearly three decades.

While Zabek did not deny the physical contact with the autistic child, her defense argued that “a lack of education and training” about autistic children meant that Zabek relied on “her best efforts” to manage the 4-year-old.

As readers might know, ignorance is not a valid legal defense. Truly, though, if someone’s “best efforts” fail to include self-education — there are numerous resources that offer information about autism — then perhaps child care as a profession should be off the table altogether.

What remains truly alarming is that Zabek has been in the daycare business for almost 30 years. Was this act of abuse really just an isolated incident?

Given the video evidence, one would expect that Zabek faced some rather serious criminal charges. But while the prosecution did originally push for assault and battery on a disabled person, these charges were reduced to standard charges of assault and battery.

The changes arose from an agreement between Zabek and the prosecution. Zabek will face probation and be banned from providing child care in the future, but although a court found her guilty on seven counts, she will not spend a day in jail.

Sadly, this case is but one of many involving child abuse, and children with disabilities and special needs are especially vulnerable. This reality is backed up by data collected by the Centers for Disease Control.

Though Zabek will lose her day care business, the fact that she abused a child specifically because of his autism makes her consequences seem shockingly mild. Worse still, this underwhelming sentence sends a rather unambiguous message: the state doesn’t appear to prioritize the safety of special needs children.

Photo Credit: SupportPDX/Flickr

87 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Telica R
Telica R1 years ago

poor child!1

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Carl R
Carl R1 years ago

Thanks!!!

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Philippa P
Philippa Powers1 years ago

She should have gotten a hefty jail sentence.

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Joan E
Joan E1 years ago

This is wrong. This woman is a predator.

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FOTEINI H
fotini horbou1 years ago

UNFAIR!!!!

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Victoria D
Victoria D1 years ago

It is so disheartening

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Carl R
Carl R1 years ago

Thanks!!!

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 years ago

I would jail her and fine her. It's a betrayal of the parents' trust.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 years ago

Nobody should be kicking any child. She thought she could get away with it because the boy was autistic and would not tell.

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