MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Board of Education issued a statement Friday to address what is calls widespread speculation in connection with the student abuse case at Berkeley Heights Elementary School.
The school board accepted the resignations of former Berkeley County Schools employees Christina Lester, June Yurish, Kristin Douty and Amber Boeckmann on Feb. 14. It’s alleged Lester, Yurish and Douty verbally and physically abused Adri Pack and other students on the day of October 4, 2018.
That was the day when Amber Pack placed a recording device in Adri’s hair. Adri is a student with special needs and is non-verbal. Amber Pack filed a lawsuit against the board in late February.
The school board’s statement comes the same day a community member announced she has gathered the names of approximately 1,700 residents who want the Berkeley County Council to remove all five school board members from office.
The released statement:
The Berkeley County Board of Education is aware of widespread speculation and rumors surrounding two pending lawsuits filed by parents of Berkeley County Schools’ students. We are sensitive to the concern and understandable tension this incident has created within our schools and throughout our community.
To protect the integrity of the legal process, the Board of Education has maintained its official practice of not commenting on pending investigations or litigation. However, as this sensitive legal matter remains pending, the Board felt it appropriate to provide additional information to our community. After consulting with our attorneys, we decided to release the following statement:
In October 2018, an audio recording posted on social media went viral and brought serious allegations of deeply troubling and unacceptable behavior by former employees of Berkeley County Schools.
As previously reported, June Yurish, Kristen Douty, and Christina Lester are no longer employed by the Berkeley County Board of Education. These individuals were removed from their positions as soon as the Board was made aware of the full extent of the allegations against them.
By law, the Board has a duty to investigate complaints against its employees. Prior to terminating their employment, the law requires the Board to provide due process to its employees—regardless of the allegations against them. Because of these investigations, the Board ensured that June Yurish, Kristen Douty, and Christina Lester would no longer be permitted to work in Berkeley County Schools. In so doing, the Board prevented appeals through the public employees’ grievance process that may have resulted in successful appeals to the grievance board or the courts forcing the Board to place these individuals back into Berkeley County classrooms. Additionally, all three of these individuals were reported to the State Superintendent for their misconduct for whatever actions he deemed appropriate.
Nearly 20,000 students attend approximately 1,600 classrooms throughout Berkeley County each school day. Our 32 public schools serve over 3,500 students with special needs. Our students are the most valuable and important members of this community; they are our future. Every student in Berkeley County deserves a safe and supportive educational environment. We must accept nothing less. Although the Board of Education is a policymaking body, it is doing everything within its statutorily-delegated power to ensure students’ safety and success. No student should ever be harassed, harmed, or abused in any way. The Board apologizes for its former employees’ actions and any distress or harm they may have caused.
Although we share in the desire to bring prompt resolution and full disclosure of the details of this process and actions by the Board, we ask the public to be patient with the judicial system and legal process. We are working to resolve these matters as quickly as legally achievable so that our community can heal.
As community members, parents, and grandparents of children who attend our schools, we share a common goal — to focus on what is best for the students of Berkeley County Schools. We want our community to know we are deeply affected by this event, and focused on ensuring a renewed sense of stability, purpose and engagement in our district. We would also like to thank you for your overwhelming support and concern throughout this difficult time.