UPDATE: BERKELY COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey sought to protect students with special needs and enforce the state’s Human Rights Act so as to hold accountable anyone who threatens to assault an individual because of his or her disability.
The civil complaint, filed Tuesday, alleges three adults, each placed in a position of trust, verbally assaulted two nonverbal autistic children. The allegations stem from conduct captured as part of a parent’s secret recording in November 2018 at Berkeley Heights Elementary School in Martinsburg.
“No student should suffer the verbal assault endured by these students,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Our office will use every ounce of its authority to protect children from abuse, especially from adults placed in a position of trust. We may have limited criminal authority, but this filing demonstrates our commitment to use civil tools to bring proven wrongdoers to justice.”
The complaint alleges Christina Lester, June Yurish and Kristin Douty verbally assaulted the autistic students by threatening each with physical violence. It states a suspecting parent captured evidence of the threats by hiding a recording device in her daughter’s hair.
The Attorney General seeks a court order declaring that Lester, Yurish and Douty violated the state’s Human Rights Act. The complaint additionally seeks a $5,000 civil penalty for each violation and an injunction to block any of the three from holding a position, paid or volunteer, in which they supervise or provide care to children.
The complaint also seeks to block Lester, Yurish and Douty from having any contact with the students in question or their family members.
The Attorney General’s investigation into the matter remains ongoing. The complaint specifically reserved his right to pursue similar action against any other individual, entity or institution revealed to have violated the state’s Human Rights Act.
The complaint was filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court as part of the Attorney General’s exclusive authority to seek an injunction against any person who violates the state’s Human Rights Act.
Read the civil complaint at http://bit.ly/2twhTvm.
BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. (WJLA) — A hidden recording device in a special education classroom is raising alarming questions about what went on inside a classroom at an elementary school in Berkeley County, West Virginia.
A warning: What you are about to read is disturbing.
Instructor #1: “I ought to back hand you right in your teeth. How is that for anxiety?”
According to parents, that’s a secret audio recording of an instructor talking to children inside a special education class at Berkeley Heights Elementary School in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Amber Pack sent her 8-year-old daughter to class with a recording device after the child didn’t want to go back to school.
Instructor #1: “This one I could punch her right in her face.”
A different instructor in the same class.
Instructor #2: “You got to go pee-pee? Pee-pee? Or do you not have to go pee-pee and you just want to go **** *** in a chair?”
Instructor #2: “I’m going to pull your hair until you start crying.”
Instructor #3: “Don’t throw it. Don’t throw. You animal you.”
Instructor #2: “Yep. You wench.”
Instructor #2: “You’re like a pygmy. You’re like a pygmy thing.”
The next day Pack alerted the school district and the Martinsburg Police Department.
“Do you think this has been going on for a while?” asked I-Team Reporter Scott Taylor.
“Yes. That was the first day I put the recorder in her hair,” says Amber Pack.
“One day you recorded all of this?” says Scott Taylor.
“One day. Eight hours,” adds Amber Pack.
You can hear the instructors sometimes singing songs and reading stories to students and other times:
Instructor #2: “How your tears dried up so quickly crocodile.”
Instructor #3: “And then she wants to destroy everything in sight.”
Instructor #2: “I’m a knock you out.”
“I couldn’t eat for three days. My stomach. I was so upset. Every time I looked at her I would start crying,” says Amber Pack.
Kasey Murphy who’s six-year old son, Owen, is in the same class says during a late October parents-teacher conference nobody alerted her to the recording even though Pack had already handed it over to the school district.
“I’ve never heard from the principal. Never heard from the Superintendent. I’ve never heard from any of them,” says Murphy.
It wasn’t until November after Pack posted a clip of the recording on Facebook that Murphy became aware of it.
Instructor #2: “I am gonna beat your butt for sure and Owen you’re gonna get one just just cause.”
“It’s sickening. People don’t even talk to animals like that and they are talking to non-verbal children who don’t understand why they are talking to them like that. They aren’t doing anything wrong,” adds Kasey Murphy.
On the recording, you can hear the instructors tease and refuse to give Owen food.
Instructor #1: “Growl at me. I dare you and you won’t get one. Go ahead. There is nothing says I have to give you a snack. Nothing.”
Instructor #2: “Looks like you get nothing Owen. Ha ha. Sorry buddy.’
The Berkeley County Prosecutor’s Office found no criminal wrong doing but County Prosecutor Catie Wilkes Delligatti told both mothers in a letter “I am not in any way condoning the verbal treatment of your children by the individuals in the classroom”.
Right now, all 3 instructors are on paid administrative leave.
“I don’t understand why you treated her the way you treated her. She didn’t deserve that. No kid does,” says Amber Pack.
The School District, which declined multiple interview requests, is still investigating and says State law prevents it from sharing information.
The Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Department of Education just opened its own investigation.
Only one of the three instructors has gotten back to us. She has no comment.
Both students mentioned in our investigation are now in different schools. Owen transferred to a new School District. Parents of both students tell ABC 7 News the children are very happy in their new classrooms.