MANASSAS, Va. -- A Virginia daycare teacher who turned her classroom into what a prosecutor called a "baby fight club" was convicted Wednesday on more than a dozen criminal charges.
Sarah Jordan, 31, of Woodbridge, was the lead teacher of one-year-old children back in 2013 at a Minnieland Academy classroom in Woodbridge. Witnesses testified that Jordan intentionally tripped children, stepped on their toes, encouraged them to fight each other and sprayed them in the face with a hose.
After a three-day bench trial, a Prince William County judge convicted Jordan on 13 felony and misdemeanor counts, including child cruelty and assault and battery. She was found not guilty on four counts. More than 20 counts were dismissed by the judge during the trial, largely because prosecutors failed to prove that the alleged assaults had occurred within the statute of limitations.
Jordan testified Wednesday in her own defense and denied the accusations. She said she occasionally used the hose to sprinkle kids with water because the sprinkler attachment was broken but never tried to hurt them.
She suggested that the accusations stemmed from workplace disputes with her co-workers.
But prosecutor Ashleigh Landers said the three co-workers who testified that they witnessed Jordan abusing the toddlers had no bias against Jordan and one of them even considered Jordan a friend.
Landers said in her closing argument that the atmosphere fostered by Jordan was "almost creating like a baby fight club" and did immeasurable damage to the psyches of impressionable children.
Parents testified that their children suddenly became fearful of water and started acting out in ways similar to the abuse described in the classroom, like stepping on others' feet.
Parents who spoke with CBS affiliate WUSA after the verdict were overcome with tears of joy. Blake Buckner had a son that was placed under Jordan's care and said he was forced to fight.
"The teacher was making him the class bully made to fight. It was hard to hold back tears, emotional, it was very deep," Buckner said. "She knows what she did. Justice has prevailed."
Jordan's bond was revoked immediately after the verdict and she will be jailed pending her sentencing May 6.
Her attorney, Adrian Showells, noted that Jordan still has the right to appeal her conviction but otherwise declined comment.
Family members of the abused children patted each other on the back and wept in relief as the judge read the verdicts. A lawyer representing many of the families, James J. McCoart III, said Jordan's actions were "not only... cruel and traumatic, but outrageous criminal conduct on our community's most vulnerable."
The parents are considering a class action lawsuit against the school.
The allegations against Jordan, and another woman, Kierra Spriggs, 26, first surfaced in a 2013 report from the Virginia Department of Social Services. Spriggs is scheduled for trial next month.
According to state documents, Jordan and Spriggs physically and emotionally abused the children for entertainment.
The report found the women encouraged toddlers to fight and dunked children afraid of water into wading pools. It also found the women laughed about feeding kids Flamin' Hot Cheetos.