A West Virginia mother suspected her 6-year-old daughter with autism was being abused at school, so she hid a recording device in her daughter’s hair, court documents said.
Amber Pack, the girl’s mother, was concerned when her daughter Adri came home with bruises from Berkeley Heights Elementary School in Martinsburg. The marks appeared to be pressure bruises from tight grips, Ben Salango, the Pack family attorney, said, according to CNN.
A former teacher and two former aides were arrested on Friday, Aug. 16, and were charged with misdemeanor failure to report abuse or neglect, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said.
Adri was nonverbal, but she didn’t want to leave the house and would cry getting on the bus. The attorney said it was clear Adri didn’t want to go to school.
So, in October, Pack bought a recording device and put it in Adri’s hair.
In the recording, the teacher, Christina Lester, and the aides, June Yurish and Kristin Douty, threatened Adri and other children with physical violence, telling them they would hit them in the face, knock their teeth out, and withhold food, Salango said.
“These arrests send a strong message—that child abuse will not be tolerated and must be reported,” Morrisey said. “We must continue working to ensure vulnerable children are protected, especially at school.”
The attorney general filed a civil lawsuit in February that accused Lester, Yurish, and Douty of verbally abusing the students by threatening physical violence.
Morrisey made criminal referrals to the prosecutor as a result of the investigation, and in May, the civil complaint was amended, including the county’s deputy superintendent, Margaret F. Kursey, and the principal, Amber Boeckmann, claiming they actively attempted to obscure evidence with a flawed investigation.
Adri is now going to a new school, and she’s “in a loving environment and doing much better,” Salango said.