UPDATE (2:40 p.m.on Monday, May 2): Walter Pannell, a former teacher’s aide at Horace Mann Middle School, pleaded guilty to four counts of misdemeanor battery on Monday, according to court records.
His sentencing is scheduled for July 20 at 9:00 a.m.
This is an update to a story published on Sept. 24, 2021.
KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – A fourth lawsuit has now been filed regarding abuse allegations involving a teacher and two aides from Horace Mann Middle School in Charleston.
The lawsuit was filed by a minor student’s parents in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County against Walter Pannell, Lillian Branham and Anthony Wilson. The Kanawha County Board of Education was also named as a defendant in the case.
These same defendants were named in three other lawsuits, two filed in late May of 2021 and one filed earlier this month, Sept. 2021. Both of these suits alleged similar behavior and also mentioned the video footage. One of these students was taken to the emergency room for injuries sustained during abuse by the defendants, another lawsuit claims.
The complaint alleges abuse against a non-verbal special needs student who “requires assistance with activities of daily living” and was enrolled in a special needs class taught by Wilson with Branham and Pannell as classroom aides.
According to the complaint, the defendants are accused of allegedly restraining the student and confining them to a bean bag or chair “under threat of physical and/or verbal abuse.” The allegations say the student was rarely allowed to leave the bean bag or chair and “was physically and verbally abused and disciplined” when they did leave the chair.
The lawsuit also claims the student was allegedly subjected to repeated harassment, threats and ridicule including Pannell allegedly yelling in the student’s face and “grabbing and jerking” their arms as well as alleging that both Pannell and Branham taunted and harassed the student and “aggressively” jerked them on and off the chair or the bean bag.
“Defendants Pannell, Branham and Wilson’s conduct was atrocious, intolerable, and so extreme ad outrageous as to exceed the bounds of decency,” the lawsuit reads.
Just one day after the third suit was announced, an attorney for the alleged victims said that video evidence documents 110 instances of abuse over the course of three months.
The suit names the KCBOE as a defendant alleging the board failed to properly interview, evaluate, screen and train the other three defendants before they were hired and also allegedly failed to supervise and monitor them.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff is demanding a jury trial in the case.
Kanawha County Schools has provided the following response to the lawsuit:
We are aware of the new lawsuit that has been filed over the abuse allegations at Horace Mann Middle School. This new lawsuit comes from the same time period and classroom that is at issue in the three other lawsuits filed. As Kanawha County Schools has continued to investigate what occurred in this classroom, we have informed CPS, law enforcement officials, and the student’s parents and representation of what we have found, while giving them opportunities to view the video.
Kanawha County Schools is addressing the employee discipline of those accused under Policy G25. They have not been in a classroom since the initial discovery.Kanawha County Schools