Teachers were horrified when a student in Florida opened her backpack and "hundreds of bugs" crawled out. After investigators delved into the situation and discovered an infested home, the young girl's mother was arrested.
Jessica Stevenson, 33, was charged with child neglect without causing great bodily harm on May 3. Staff at the Bagdad Elementary School had alerted the Florida Department of Children and Families of what they believed was a suspicious situation after noting a student's markedly poor hygiene, prompting investigation from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.
An employee at the school noticed a second-grader had been wearing the same dirty clothing for an entire week, according to the DCF report obtained by The Pensacola News Journal. The child also emanated a distinct odor which indicated neglect. When asked about the last time they had taken a bath, the child could not answer.
The employee also observed the scores of insects crawling out of the student's bag while they ate in the lunch room, according to the report.
A teacher interviewed during the investigation said that Stevenson berated her in a meeting about her children, as it was assumed that she had been the one who called DCF. The same teacher said that one of the Stevenson children had to be given new clothes by the school, after they were instructed to wear the same outfit repeatedly until it was no longer wearable. The student had been observed “having meltdowns” and appeared depressed, according to the DCF report.
When police went to investigate the Milton, Florida home where five siblings ranging between 5 and 14 years old lived, they discovered "roaches were on nearly every surface in the home” including “on the children’s mattress, in the pots and pans in the kitchen, and inside the cabinets/fridge," according to the DCF report. The home was described as "filthy" and rancid food was discovered in the fridge. Stevenson's room appeared, by contrast, relatively clean and had a separate assortment of snacks.
Stevenson was released on $2,500 bond a day after her arrest. In an interview outside the home, Stevenson commented that she had been "unfairly" targeted by the sheriff and the school.
"I'm not a bad mom, I do everything I can. I work hard," Stevenson told Pensacola ABC affiliate WEAR on May 7. "They just made it harder for me. We have roaches, people all the time tell me everyone in Florida has roaches. It's not easy when you're one person and five kids. I want to do better and I'm trying."
All five children have been removed from Stevenson's care. She has also been given a no-contact order.
Stevenson potentially faces 25 years in prison if convicted. Her next court appearance is scheduled for May 30.
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