Disturbing audio from inside a West Virginia special needs elementary school classroom appears to show teachers mocking and threatening to punch and hit students, and now has prompted a major backlash.
As WJLA reported, the audio was taken inside a Berkeley Heights Elementary School in Berkeley County and appeared to show teachers making threats toward students who are not following their instructions. Amber pack said she sent her 8-year-old daughter to class with a recording device, and it showed teachers mistreating some of the students.
“I ought to back hand you right in your teeth. How is that for anxiety?” one instructor was heard saying. The same instructor later said she “could punch her right in the face” in reference to a student.
Another instructor told a student, “I’m going to pull your hair until you start crying.”
The instructors also mocked the students, telling one they would not be allowed to go to the bathroom and calling them names like “wench” and “pygmy.”
Pack said she recorded eight hours of audio, and that it was so upsetting she could not eat for three days.
EXCLUSIVE: Listen to a secret recording made by a Mom in a class at Berkeley Heights Elementary School in West Virginia. Hear the disturbing comments made by instructors to 1st graders. It's my latest 7 On Your Side Investigation. @ABC7News #7OYS https://t.co/VsA9qgOCrs— Scott Taylor ABC 7 (@ScottTaylorTV) February 8, 2019
Pack said she turned the recording over to the school district after it was recorded earlier in the school year. The Berkeley County Prosecutor’s Office also reviewed the audio and found no criminal wrongdoing. But other parents with students in the classroom said they were never alerted, and Pack eventually posted the recording on social media.
The story of the secret recording has gained national attention and comparisons to another recent case of alleged child abuse in a special needs classroom. As NBC News reported, a 9-year-old autistic boy at Wurtland Elementary School, Kentucky, was seen on video being dragged by the arm by a teacher down the hallway. The teacher, identified as Trina Abrams, was fired after the incident and faces assault charges for the incident.
Greenup County Schools released a statement condemning the incident.
“The Greenup County School District prioritizes the safety of our students,” Superintendent Sherry Horsley wrote in a statement.
“All GCSD staff are trained to prevent incidents of restraint. Each school has a specially trained team to address immediate issues. In addition, each school has teachers specially trained to address autism related behaviors.”
The instructors heard threatening and mocking students on the audio have been placed on paid administrative leave, and two parents who spoke out, including Pack, said their students have now transferred to a different school and are happier there. The school district said it continues to investigate the audio.