WV Attorney General implicates 2 administrators, school system in Berkeley Heights abuse case

West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced a significant development in the Berkeley County school child abuse investigation Tuesday afternoon. 

Morrisey sought to add claims against a school principal, deputy superintendent and the Berkeley County Board of Education.

[READ MORE: Disturbing audio recordings at Berkeley Heights Elementary shows verbal abuse from instructors]

The amended charges allege that Berkeley Heights Principal Amber Boeckmann and Berkeley County Deputy Superintendent Margaret F. Kursey actively tried to hinder the investigation and obscure evidence with a flawed investigation, in order to destroy the recording and a failure to report the matter to Child Protective Services, according to the Attorney General’s Office. 

Originally, the lawsuit accused special education teacher Christina Lester and two aides, June Yurish and Kristin Douty, of verbally assaulting two nonverbal autistic children in a Berkeley Heights Elementary classroom. The evidence came from Amber Pack, the mother of one of the children, who caught the abuse on a recording device she hid in her daughter’s hair in November 2018. 

[READ MORE: School board addresses verbal abuse allegations at Berkeley Heights Elementary]

“School administrators must be held to a higher standard, one that protects our children and vigorously responds to allegations of abuse,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Today’s actions reaffirm our commitment to protect the most vulnerable of our society, especially children.” 

[READ MORE: Berkeley County Superintendent Manny Arvon retires, interim Superintendent named]

The amended complaint adds the Berkeley County Board of Education as a sixth defendant contending that it bears responsibility because those committing the allegations did so during the course of their employment with the board.

Morrisey seeks a court order declaring that Lester, Yurish, Douty, Boeckmann, Kursey and the Berkeley County Board of Education violated the state’s Human Rights Act. The complaint additionally seeks a $5,000 civil penalty for each violation and an injunction to block the individual defendants from having any contact with the students in question or their family members.

The amended complaint was filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court as part of the Attorney General’s exclusive authority to seek an injunction against any person who violates the state’s Human Rights Act.

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