Autistic girl assaulted, $6 million suit claims

By Cara Bailey | Jun 1, 2007

CHARLESTON - The mother of an autistic girl is seeking $6 million from the West Virginia and Logan County Boards of Education, among others, claiming an aide physically, mentally and sexually assaulted her daughter for several years.

Sharon Davidson filed a suit May 16 in Kanawha Circuit Court on behalf of her daughter, identified only as B.M.

The suit names Judith Faye Walls, a classroom aide, the Logan County Board of Education, West Virginia Board of Education, and several educators at Man Elementary and Buffalo Grade School as defendants.

The suit claims that incidents arose while B.M., who has ADHD and autism, was between ages 5 and 10, at Buffalo Grade School, South Man Grade School and Man Central K-8 School.

Davidson claims abuse against her daughter started in kindergarten, during the 1999-2000 school year at Buffalo Grade School. According to the suit, Lisa Twardy, named as a defendant in the suit, was B.M.'s teacher. She allegedly committed assault and battery against the girl, to the point of leaving bruises and marks on her arms and wrist. The suit says Twardy also stomped on B.M.'s foot.

According to the suit, when Davidson complained of the abuse, principal Ray Albright expelled her daughter for one year. David Godby, superintendent of Logan County schools, is also named in the suit, with Davidson claiming he aided in expelling B.M., in violation of West Virginia Code.

For the 2000-01 school year B.M. was sent out of district to South Man Grade School, now Man Elementary. Because it was out of district Davidson had to quit her job to take her daughter to school, and suffered economic loss, the suit says.

According to the suit, Betty Gentry was the teacher of B.M.'s class, and Judith Faye Walls was assigned as an aide.

"These employees were abusive to B.M. and committed assault and battery upon B.M.," the suit says.

Davidson claims her daughter would beg to not be sent to school, because she was afraid of her teacher and aide.

According to the suit, B.M. came home with bruises and marks on her, and Davidson wrote a letter to principal David Adkins. Adkins replied, "Mrs. Gentry and Mrs. Walls just go about things differently than other teachers do," the suit says.

Davidson also informed Adkins that her daughter was being hit with a ruler, to which he said that a lot of teachers still do that, the suit says.

"One day, Mrs. Davidson walked into her daughter's classroom and found Walls sitting on B.M.'s stomach straddled across her with her knees pushed into the shoulders of B.M.," the suit says. "Walls was screaming at B.M. telling her she was 'going to whip her.'"

Walls also allegedly said B.M. was going to get hurt if she did not mind Walls, the suit says.

Davidson claims she continued to report the abuse, but it did not stop.

According to the suit, B.M. was allowed to wander away from school with no supervision, and was found one day walking around the streets of South Man alone and unsupervised.

"When asked by the school why she would try to run away, B.M. responded, 'Faye is mean and will hit me'," the suit says.

The next school year B.M. had the same aide, and a different teacher. According to the suit, Walls continued to abuse B.M., and the teacher reported the abuse to Davidson. Davidson reported the abuse to Garland Elmore, who was the new principal. According to the suit, Elmore said he told Walls to stop hitting B.M., but he did not suspend or fire her.

According to the suit, Walls began putting B.M. in the bathroom, "to get rid of her,"

"She left her in the bathroom so long that B.M. ate the toilet paper and soap and the paint off the walls," the suit says.

B.M. tested positive for lead poisoning from the paint.

In another incident, B.M. was found with several bite marks on her. According to the suit, Walls admitted she bit her. When Elmore investigated, he found bite marks on both B.M.'s arms, as well as her legs, back and buttocks.

Another parent signed B.M. out for the day and took her home. Davidson claims she found out what happened and immediately filed battery charges against Walls, who was still not suspended or fired.

During a meeting with at least eight other people, Walls admitted to abusing B.M., the suit says.

Davidson removed her daughter from school and sent a written complaint to the West Virginia State Board of Education. According to the suit, she was then told she must either put B.M. back in school or go to jail.

Davidson put B.M. back in school, and remained in class with her every day for the rest of the school year.

B.M. continued to be abused for the next two school years, including being left alone in classrooms and coming home badly bruised.

According to the lawsuit, a worker with Autism Services documented that Walls verbally and physically abused B.M. 119 times in one hour.

Davidson claims that after hearing about the report, she went to school, where she found her daughter rolled in an 8 x 10 rug, with Walls holding it. A teacher came in with the principal, claiming she had reported Walls actions nine times before, and she was afraid Walls was going to kill B.M.

The suit says physical and mental abuse continued until Walls was assigned to be a kindergarten aide.

According to the suit, after another year of abuse, Davidson permanently removed her daughter from the Logan County School system. They now live in Georgia, where B.M. receives daily therapy to help her deal with the abuse she suffered, the suit says.

In the 11-count suit, Davidson claims her daughter's life was threatened and she was sexually, physically and mentally abused. She also claims the Logan County and West Virginia Boards of Education failed to keep a student safe, a violation of West Virginia Code.

Walls, Elmore, Adkins, Twardy, Gentry, Cecilia Bian and Ray Albright are all named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Davidson, through Charleston attorney Cynthia E. Evans, seeks $6 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

The case has been assigned to Judge James Stucky.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-953

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