POINT PLEASANT – The Mason County Board of Education has been named as a co-defendant in two civil suits alleging responsibility for injuries two special needs students suffered at the hands of their teacher.

That teacher, who is named a co-defendant, has a pending suit against the Board challenging an administrative law judge's decision upholding the Board's decision terminating her for the alleged acts.

On Dec. 19, two Mason County residents, identified only as M.F. and A.C., filed separate lawsuits alleging their children, identified only as C.F. and J.C., respectively, were improperly disciplined by their New Haven Elementary preschool teacher, Katherine Parrish.

According to the suits, which are identical in wording expect for the names involved, the infants suffered "physical and emotional abuse" as a result of Parrish's actions.

In their complaint and suit, filed with the assistance of Matthew L. Clark, with the Point Pleasant law firm of Kayser, Layne and Clark, the residents allege that Parrish on several occasions between August and December 2006, "placed the infant [C.F/J.C] into a body sock, which brutally restrained [C.F./J.C.] in an abusive manner inconsistent with the child's Individualized Educational Plan or any accepted teaching practice."

Also, the suits allege Parrish, "covered the infant's face and head in an unreasonable manner for an undetermined amount of time while [C.F./J.C.] was restrained in the body sock." During the time they were each restrained, eyewitnesses observed Parrish leave the room.

Likewise, eyewitnesses observed Parrish "pick up [C.F./J.C.] and slam [C.F/J.C] down on the bleachers in an abusive manner."

Because of the "physical and mental abuse [C.F./J.C.] suffered at the hands of Katherine Parrish, [C.F./J.C.] frequently recalls the abusive events and becomes frightened, and utters phrases consistent with the abuse endured," the suits allege.

According to court records, Parrish's actions where not halted until Susan Howard, a teacher's aide, reported it to the Board on Dec. 14, 2006. However, Clark says the school's principal, Robert Vaughan, was alerted to this matter a week earlier, but did nothing.

"Defendant, Principal Robert Vaughan's inaction allowed the emotional and physical abuse of Defendant, Katherine Parrish, to continue until the Mason County Board of Education suspended and eventually terminated the employment of Defendant, Katherine Parrish," Clark said.

Because of his alleged inaction, Vaughan is named a co-defendant in the suits.

According to court records, the Board terminated Parrish, who lives in Ripley, on Jan. 18, 2007. On July 9, the West Virginia Education and State Employees Grievance Board upheld the school board's decision.

In the suit, Clark alleges that the actions of the three defendants has resulted in the infants to incur "Physical pain and suffering; Medical bills and costs; Mental pain, Suffering and anguish; Anxiety; and Loss of ability to enjoy life."

As compensation, Clark is asking that the three defendants be held jointly and severally liable for their actions so the infants may be awarded "an amount above and beyond the jurisdictional limits of this Honorable Court with prejudgment interest at the legal rate set forth by statute, post judgment interest, costs and attorneys fees incurred in the prosecution of this action."

"Further," Clark added, "Plaintiff[s] demand judgment against Defendant Katherine Parrish, for exemplary and punitive damages in an amount to be decided by a jury, and such further relief as the Court may order just and proper."

Teacher challenging termination

Though the suit was filed in December, neither of defendants has filed a reply. However, in a separate lawsuit, Parrish has challenged her termination.

As first reported by the West Virginia Record, Parrish, with the assistance of James M. Casey and Jeremy Vickers of the Casey Law Offices in Point Pleasant, filed an appeal of the Grievance Board's decision to Mason Circuit Court on Aug. 8. Casey and Vickers challenged personal observations Denise M. Spatafore, the administrative law judge, made in her ruling as "arbitrary, capricious and characterized by abuse of discretion and clearly warranted exercise of discretion."

Other than the Board via its attorney Gregory W. Bailey with Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff and Love's Morgantown office filing a motion to dismiss on Aug. 13, and Casey and Vickers submitting the entire record of the Grievance Board's finding into the court record on Oct. 25, no new action has been taken in the case.

All three cases are before Mason Circuit Judge David W. Nibert.

Mason Circuit Court, Case Nos. 07-C-191 (M.F., as guardian and next of kin to C.F.), 07-C-192 (A.C., as guardian and next friend of J.C.) and 07-AA-119 (Parrish)

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