MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Three former Berkeley County Schools employees connected to alleged abuse of a non-verbal special needs student last fall face criminal charges.
Special education teacher Christina Lester and special education aides June Yurish and Kristin Douty now face misdemeanor charges of failure to report suspected child abuse.
Last fall, mother Amber Pack placed a recording device in her daughter Adri’s hair that recorded alleged verbal and possible physical abuse at Berkeley Heights Elementary School. Adri, who is a non-verbal special needs student, was 6 years-old at the time of the alleged events.
“As I understand it, they’ve been charged with failing to report suspected child abuse,” said Ben Salango, attorney for the Pack family. “Teachers, of course, are mandatory reporters. If they witness or suspect abuse, they have a legal obligation to report it. This was going on in the classroom and so their failure to report resulted in these charges.”
Salango had filed a civil suit against the three women and had said he hoped Berkeley County’s Prosecuting Attorney Catie Wilkes-Deligatti would file criminal charges. He said his client is happy the women will face criminal charges even they are not the more serious abuse charges.
“It’s not the charge of abuse. Of course the tape speaks for itself. The prosecutor (Delligatti) in this, case kudos to her, quite frankly. There was a tremendous amount of public pressure and she didn’t bow to it. She took her time and did a thorough investigation. These charges are pretty irrefutable with or without the tape. So the fact that they were charged with something I can tell you Amber Pack is very happy.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who had worked in conjunction with Berkeley County Prosecutor Catie Wilkes Deligatti, released a statement Friday morning.
“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 Panhandle News Network can confirm that Yurish, Douty, and Lester were booked into the Eastern Regional Jail the morning of August 16.