Author: Kevin Clark
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin
AUSTIN (KXAN) — The founder of a preschool under state investigation for human trafficking has opened another school.
Several parents reached out to KXAN with concerns about the new school’s affiliations. Nido Verde Di Reggio Emilia is described on its website as a “bilingual preschool” for infants through first grade. The school is located on West Anderson Lane.
One mom, who asked us not to use her name, said she came across it when she was looking at preschools for her son.
“I googled the school, I looked at them on Texas Childcare Licensing, everything seemed to check out,” she told us over Zoom.
She says a neighbor then told her the school had ties to Austin Eco Bilingual School and its founder, Adriana Rodriguez.
“I was just curious, so I started to look into Austin Eco Bilingual School,” she said. “And that was frankly very disturbing.”
That included our investigation from last year, where we reported the Texas Attorney General’s Office was looking into allegations of human trafficking against Austin Eco Bilingual School.
The state accused Rodriguez of “labor trafficking” employees by threatening them with arrest or deportation in order force them to continue working at the school. A lawsuit claims the school didn’t release records on the matter. The AG’s investigation remains open.
Nido Verde Di Reggio Emilia is located about one mile from Austin Eco Bilingual School’s North Austin location. We found it closed and empty, with no activity. But when we called the number for that old location, listed on Austin Eco’s website, an outgoing voicemail message told us we’d reached Nido Verde Di Reggio Emilia school.
Austin Eco Bilingual School has a South Austin location, but we found it to still be operating when our crew went by.
According to state childcare facility records, Verde di Reggio Emilia got its license last month and is registered to Enrique Rodriguez. Online articles we found referenced him as the husband of Adriana Rodriguez. He is also listed in the state’s lawsuit last year, as the General Operations Director of the now closed North Austin Eco location. He is listed as the Financial Director of both the North and the South locations.
“You want to know that the people you’re entrusting with the love and care of your children, that it’s going to be a good environment, that the people are honest and trustworthy,” the mom we spoke with said.
Adriana Rodriguez could not be reached Friday.
“Disappointed to hear anyone is concerned about the proprietary of Austin Eco-Bilingual School,” said Rodriguez’ attorney, Randy Leavitt, in a statement to KXAN. “It is a first rate Spanish immersion facility with 100s of satisfied parents. The allegations of trafficking are ludicrous and proof of such is the State investigation has gone nowhere. For over a year AEBS has sought to have the issue resolved in a court of law and the AG has failed to move forward with any action.”
Leavitt added: “The new school Nido Verde Di Reggio Emilia will be run in the same professional manner.”
With regard to the trafficking allegations, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office tells us it can’t comment on any active investigations.