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31 suspended in Army day care scandal

After two day-care workers were arrested for assaulting children at a Fort Myer, Va., Army day-care center about three months ago, additional background checks found a few-dozen workers with criminal convictions.

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, Tuesday. On Tuesday, Mr. Panetta ordered a worldwide review of hiring practices at all military child-care centers, schools, youth centers, and other facilities that involve children.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

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At least 31 people were suspended from two Army day-care centers in Fort Myer, Va., last week after officials scrutinized their backgrounds and found criminal convictions ranging from fourth-degree sexual assault and drug use to other assaults, a defense official said Wednesday.

 A defense official said Wednesday that an earlier statement that the 31 people had been fired was erroneous. Suspension allows for the possibility of reinstatement or dismissal.

 The escalating scandal surrounding the Fort Myer Child Development Center has triggered a review of hiring procedures, angered defense leaders, and prompted a late-night telephone call Tuesday from President Obama to the Army secretary to express concern and urge a speedy and thorough investigation.

Details of the scandal emerged this week, nearly three months after the arrests of two day-care workers on charges of assaulting children at the Fort Myer center. The slow pace of public revelations enraged Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who on Tuesday ordered a worldwide review of hiring practices at all military child-care centers, schools, youth centers, and other facilities that involve children.

According to a defense official, 10 of the 31 workers were involved in minor criminal offenses, 13 were involved assaults, six were involved in drug use, and two were involved in fourth-degree sexual assault. The official noted that neither person with sexual assault charges ever ended up on a national registry of sex offenders. In some cases, sexual assaults can involve people over the age of 18 who are having consensual relationships with someone under the age of 18. An earlier statement that the 31 people had been fired was erroneous, the official said. Suspension allows for the possibility of reinstatement or dismissal.

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