Mom: Toms River day camp kids burned while sitting on pavement as ‘punishment’
TOMS RIVER — Several counselors at a municipal day camp have been suspended after a mother went public with allegations that her son and others suffered second-degree burns after they were "punished" by being forced to sit on the pavement.
State child welfare authorities are investigating but prosecutors said Wednesday that no criminal charges would be filed against the counselors, who are underage.
Sandra Rodriguez Santora wrote in a Facebook post that members of "Group 4" at the Toms River Youth Services camp were punished on Monday for "messing up the art room."
The kids were "made to sit on the blacktop in the heat while the counselors played basketball. If they complained, they were told it would be 10 more minutes of sitting on the hot blacktop," she wrote in the post.
Rodriguez Santora included photos she said showed her son's burned fingertips with blisters after he put his hands under his rear end to stop the burning.
"This is child endangerment and no accountability," Rodriguez Santora wrote.
The post does not disclose where the incident took place, nor the time of day, and refers only to the surface as "blacktop." New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said whatever the surface, it was hotter than the air temperature.
"The general rule of thumb is that, in direct sunshine, concrete surfaces run upwards of 40 degrees hotter than the ambient air temperature. Asphalt can be up to 60 degrees hotter than the air," Zarrow said.
The high temperature in Toms River on Monday was 83 degrees, according to Zarrow, under bright sunshine.
Township spokeswoman Stacy Proebstle said the three counselors were immediately suspended with pay pending an investigation.
"This isolated and unfortunate incident, however, should in no way deter participation in Toms River’s exceptional youth programs. Providing a safe and enjoyable environment for all children involved is the Township’s highest priority," Proebstle said.
The incident is under investigation by the state Division of Child Protective Services and Permanency, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer.
The prosecutor said no criminal charges would be filed because "there was no criminal intent associated with the actions of the camp counselors." But state child welfare officials could still take action against the teens.
Rodriguez Santora did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The eight-week program began on June 24 for kids age 6 through 11. Kids participate in "games, sports, arts and crafts, trips, celebrations, and our annual talent show," according to the township website.
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