MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The attorney representing a Berkeley County mother who says her non-verbal special needs daughter was abused by staff at Berkeley Heights Elementary School says he believes they can prove she was also physically assaulted.
Charleston Attorney Ben Salango has been retained by Amber Pack, who placed a recording device in her daughter Adri’s hair back in October of last year.
On the recording, adults in the room can be heard calling the child names and threatening physical harm. Salango says he can prove it was more than just name-calling:
“The pictures that mom has, which the police and the prosecutor never asked for, the pictures that mom has of the bruises on the arms are restraint bruises; things that you would see in a domestic violence type case, where there are thumb print and fingerprint bruising on the arms.”
The filing, submitted to WEPM by Charleston Attorney Ben Salango, lists Berkeley County Schools employees Christina Lester, June Yurish, Kristin Douty and Amber Boeckmann. The suit alleges Lester, Yurish and Douty verbally and physically abused Adri and other students on the day of October 4, 2018. Boeckmann is the principal of Berkeley Heights Elementary School.
The Berkeley County Board of Education accepted the resignations of Douty and Yurish on February 14. Lester has also resigned. Salango says even though the Berkeley County Prosecutor did not press charges, the audio proves there was assault under the legal definition:
“Assault is when you put someone in reasonable apprehension of a violent injury. So, when the teacher was in Adri’s face screaming, ‘I’m going to pull your hair ’til you cry, I’m going to knock your teeth out, I’m going to smack you. That’s actually criminal assault,” Salango said.
The attorney said there is evidence of physical abuse. Salango said the lawsuit was Pack’s only recourse.
“The police provided the tape to the principal; the principal called Amber in and said, ‘Ah there’s nothing to worry about; the teacher and the aide – they won’t hurt anybody.’ So the principal had it the very next day. Then she provided the tape the following week to the superintendent, and nothing was done,” Salango said.
He said the prosecutor’s office ‘could’ still file criminal charges within a year. He said he wants a jury to decide what the appropriate damages are, and says any monetary award would be placed in a trust for Adri until she turns 18.
On Friday afternoon, the Berkeley County Board of Education unanimously accepted Superintendent Manny Arvon’s retirement.
Salango was a guest on Friday’s Panhandle Live.
Story by WEPM’s Marsha Chwalik