MORGAN HILL -- The family of a 7-year-old girl, one of several who have accused a YMCA day care employee of sexually abusing children last summer, is suing the organization, alleging a pattern of understaffing violations that allowed the abuse to happen.

The civil suit filed Tuesday against YMCA of Silicon Valley seeks unspecified damages and says the agency did not maintain necessary staffing ratios that would have prevented 21-year-old Nicolas Lhermine from improperly being alone with the children.

Lhermine was arrested July 12 after the victim, who was 6 at the time, told her parents that she was forced to perform a sexual act with him while at the YMCA child-care program at Paradise Valley Elementary School. The civil suit contends that Lhermine was left alone with the victim after a supervising teacher went to do some work in the kitchen.

After his arrest, four more victims came forward, and the lawsuit includes their accounts in alleging that earlier in the day he took lewd photos of a 5-year-old and that the day before he molested two other children. Lhermine has been charged with sexual abuse and child pornography offenses.

The suit further accuses the local YMCA chapter of ignoring complaints about deficient teacher-student ratios to the point where a group of former staffers filed a wrongful termination suit that claims they were fired for raising these concerns. Lhermine started with the organization as a teen volunteer and had good job reviews when he was arrested.

"We intend to hold the YMCA fully accountable for failing to follow the law and protect children from a pedophile," attorney Robert Allard said in a statement.


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YMCA of Silicon Valley could not be immediately reached for comment. When the arrest surfaced last year, Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Jordan said her organization is cooperating fully with the investigation and asked that people reserve judgment until the legal process finishes. But she also said "if these charges are proven true, it goes to show that even with extreme precautions and diligence, we still have to be constantly vigilant around our children."

Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.