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February 8, 2019
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – A Martinsburg parent concerned about her child’s wellbeing in a special education class said she secretly hid a recording device in her child’s hair. What she heard was disturbing audio recording from the two aids and one teacher.
Amber Pack sent her 7-year-old daughter Adri to Berkeley Heights Elementary in Berkeley County, West Virginia with the recording back in October when she says Adri would cry, refusing to return to school. Immediately, with her maternal instinct, she recognized that something was wrong,
She brought up the attention to the school, and says administrators swept the incident under the rug for about four weeks. It wasn’t until she placed the incident on social media that the school placed two employees on administrative leave.
Instructor: “I ought to backhand you right in your teeth. How’s that for anxiety?”
The teacher has since resigned. When we reached out to the Berkeley County School District, Director Elaine Bobo issued this statement:
“Berkeley County Schools will not tolerate any action or inaction that impacts the health, welfare and safety of our students. The employees involved in the Berkeley Heights incident were placed on administrative leave since the allegations surfaced and the teacher has since resigned.We’re conducting an internal investigation and are cooperating fully with the investigation by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Child Protective Services.”
Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Catie Wilkes Delligatti along with investigators reviewed the eight hour audio recording, and said while they can’t prove that any abuse or neglect occurred that created a risk of death or bodily injury, she is “not in any way condoning the verbal treatment of your children by the individuals in their classroom.” She adds, West Virginia law states that verbal abuse of children is not a criminal act.
A letter from Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Catie Wilkes Delligatti says Ms. Murphy and Ms. Pack met on Nov. 15, 2018, which looks like the school has known about the audio recordings for some time now. #BerkeleyHeightsElementary #Martinsburg #WestVirginia @WDVMTVpic.twitter.com/aL7dyBhMJa
— Thao Ta (@thaolamta) February 8, 2019
The Office for Civil Rights also confirmed that it opened an investigation into possible disability discrimination at the school on January 15.
Berkeley County Schools also said they could not provide additional information as state and federal privacy prohibits them from doing so.
See the full statement from Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Catie Wilkes Delligatti:
In the fall of 2018, Prosecuting Attorney Catie Wilkes Delligatti, along with her office’s victim’s advocate and investigator, met with Kasey Murphy and Amber Pack, the mothers of two children who had previously attended Berkeley Heights Elementary School. Ms. Pack provided an audio recording of eight hours in the classroom, which was thoroughly reviewed by Investigator Scott Dillon. Investigator Dillon found that the recording contained numerous instances of verbal abuse that are frankly unconscionable.
The audio recording had also been previously investigated by the Martinsburg City Police Department, and Chief Richards stated that his Department was unable to determine that the evidence met the elements of a criminal offense. Ms. Delligatti reviewed Investigator Dillon’s findings and the report of the Martinsburg City Police Department and concurred that a criminal offense could not be proven.
The verbal treatment of Ms. Pack and Ms. Murphy’s children is shocking and disturbing. However, under West Virginia law, verbal abuse of children is not a criminal act. Ms. Delligatti echoes the concerns of Berkeley County citizens regarding the treatment of these children and has reached out both to the West Virginia Department of Education and the Berkeley County Board of Education to urge the appropriate parties to take action regarding the mistreatment of these children, and will lend any support her office can provide to the investigations opened by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Child Protective Service and the Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Department of Education.
See the full statement from Berkeley County Schools Director, Elaine Bobo:
Berkeley County Schools will not tolerate any action or inaction that impacts the health, welfare and safety of our students. The employees involved in the Berkeley Heights incident were placed on administrative leave since the allegations surfaced and the teacher has since resigned.
We’re conducting an internal investigation and are cooperating fully with the investigation by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Child Protective Services. State and federal privacy laws prohibit Berkeley County Schools from providing any additional information at this time.