KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Schools in Kanawha County have released a statement regarding allegations of abuse at a college.
Three employees at Horace Mann Middle School in Charleston face battery charges after police said they were filmed abusing students in a special needs classroom.
Three Horace Mann Middle School Employees Facing Battery Charges
The school district’s statement is below:
“The Kanawha County School Board takes the allegations of abuse at Horace Mann Middle School (HMMS) very seriously, which is why, upon their discovery, HMMS and KCBOE reported the incident to law enforcement. order, child protection services and parents / guardians of the children involved. This is also the reason why KCBOE continues to work with everyone involved in investigations. That being said, the KCBOE believes it is important to explain to the public how it became aware of the alleged incidents at HMMS in order to dispel doubt that the KCBOE is doing whatever is required and permitted by law to hold responsible parties accountable.
In the interest of transparency, the KCBOE has the following statement regarding incidents of alleged abuse that have occurred at HMMS. Everything contained in this statement can be supported by documents created at the time of the discovery of the alleged abuse and during the investigation, which is still ongoing. Some of these documents were provided to local news outlets as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
On May 12, 2021, HMMS assistant principal Brittany Harris received a noise complaint during annual tests on a stand-alone classroom for special education. Ms. Harris walked into the classroom and as she approached the classroom she saw what appeared to be a classroom aide patting a student who was sitting in a bean bag chair. When Mrs. Harris saw this through the door window, the class assistants turned their backs on Mrs. Harris. Believing at the time that what she saw through the door window was the helper patting the student, Ms. Harris walked into the room to talk about the noise. While in the classroom, Ms Harris reported that she saw the assistants get upset and the student who was previously in the beanbag chair fidget and go around in circles. The class helpers and teacher told Ms. Harris that the student spat on one of them and tried to make him apologize. Ms Harris observed the teacher in the classroom on the phone with the student’s tutor to explain the behaviors they were now witnessing, which Ms Harris said was not typical, but did not know why at the time. At all times before this, no issues had been reported to the administration this would increase to the level indicating that child abuse was occurring in that classroom. The only prior known report that raised suspicion of abuse in the classroom was made to the classroom teacher, one of the alleged abusers.
Ms Harris reported that after leaving the classroom on May 12, she discussed what she saw and observed outside the classroom and inside the classroom with Principal Tweedy . Ms Harris reported that when they were able to talk about the bigger picture at the end of the day, they started to have suspicions of abuse due to the noise level in the classroom, the commotion in the classroom, the student’s unusual behavior. showing off, and the touch that had previously looked like a caress seen through the glass of the door. Based on this now fully developed suspicion of abuse and in accordance with the law, Ms Harris and Director Shandon Tweedy decided they should view the video footage. After viewing the footage, Ms Harris and Ms Tweedy called Charleston Police, State Police, Child Protection Services, the central office and the guardian of the child involved in the incident. This all happened on May 12, 2021. At the time, the only footage viewed was the footage from that day and all that was seen in the footage from that day was the incident with a child. , a teacher and two assistants.
On May 17, 2021, the KCBOE received two letters from Mr. Michael Cary, Esq. stating that he represented the student whose KCBOE was already aware of the incident and that he also represented another student that the KCBOE did not know at the time, was also allegedly abused in the same class . This letter requested that the video footage of this classroom from May 1 to 17, 2021 be preserved, along with all related documents and incident reports. It has been done. Also on May 17, the HMMS administration was made aware of another incident that had already been reported to the teacher and the alleged perpetrator in the special education class in question. By retaining the requested video footage, investigating the known incident, and relying on the allegation of another incident that may have occurred with another student, the KCBOE began to review all retained video footage. It was during this investigation that the KCBOE discovered an incident on May 4, 2021. This discovery was also immediately communicated to the police and child protection services in addition to the May 12, 2021 report, in addition of the child’s parent. in the video.
The KCBOE was told that Mr Salango would work with Mr Cary on this issue after the two incidents were reported to the proper authorities and parents, and after the KCBOE had already started reviewing additional footage in its investigation into the alleged abuse. In communication with Mr. Cary and Mr. Salango, the KCBOE made it clear that they would be allowed to view the footage. They looked at the pictures. They will continue to benefit from this access.
FOIA and the general public, along with Mr. Cary and Mr. Salango, have also called for the release of videotapes of stand-alone special education classes where the alleged abuse took place. The KCBOE recognizes the public interest in these tapes, but is not free to legally produce them publicly, nor to legally produce them to Messrs. Salango and Cary for public release. The law on this subject stipulates, in part,
(j) Except in the cases provided for in paragraphs (k) and (l) of this article, a video recording of a pupil made under this article is confidential and must not be published or consulted.
(k) Within seven days of receiving a request, a public school or school district must allow watch a video recording by:
(1) An employee of a public school or school district who is involved in an alleged incident which is documented by the video recording and which has been reported to the public school or school district;
(2) A parent or legal guardian of a student who is involved in an alleged incident which is documented by the video recording and which has been reported to the public school or school district;
(3) An employee of a public school or school district in connection with an investigation of an alleged incident which is documented by the video recording and which has been reported to the public school or school district;
(4) A law enforcement officer in connection with an investigation of an alleged incident which is documented by the video recording and which has been reported to the law enforcement agency; or
(5) The Department of Health and Human Resources in the context of an investigation into child abuse and neglect …
(l) When a video is being reviewed as part of the investigation of an alleged incident and the video reveals that a student has violated a disciplinary code or school rule, which violation does not is unrelated to the alleged incident for which the exam is taking place, and which violation is not already disciplined against the student, the student is not subject to disciplinary action from the share the school for such unrelated violation unless it reveals a separate incident as described in 18-20-11 (b) (1) of this Code.
W. Go. Code § 18-20-11 (emphasis added).
This law only allows the KCBOE to provide the video to a school district employee involved in the alleged incident, to a parent or legal guardian of a student involved in an alleged incident, to a school district employee investigating a suspected incident. , law enforcement following an investigation into a suspected incident, and the Department of Health and Human Resources as part of an abuse investigation. There is no exception that allows the KCBOE to broadcast images with parental permission. In addition, there is no provision for the KCBOE to even distribute the images to parents. They can only view the images. All the parents of the students who were in this self-contained classroom, as well as their lawyers, had the opportunity to view the images, and did so. Additionally, now that the KCBOE is aware of suspected abuse incidents in this class and suspects that they may have been other incidents, it is now reviewing 90 days of footage to determine if any additional acts occurred in this class. where appropriate, direct law enforcement to, as well as child protection services. These images have been preserved.
Throughout this matter, starting with the administration of the HMMS School finding out what was going on in that classroom, the KCBOE has done what it is legally and ethically required to do to ensure the protection of our most vulnerable students. It is a truly unfortunate situation. We will continue to have contacts with the parents involved and their lawyers. We would also be happy to share our experience with the West Virginia State Legislature to better utilize these cameras as tools for detect abuse and not just investigate suspected or suspected abuse. Currently, cameras can only be legally used when there is a suspicion or allegation of abuse. We are not allowed to monitor these cameras on a regular basis like we monitor other cameras in schools. The KCBOE is deeply invested in the safety of its students and will be happy to work with the Legislature to advance this cause.
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