MARTINSBURG – The state Attorney General’s office has filed a civil complaint against three Berkeley County school employees in the aftermath of abuse allegations against special needs students.
West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey’s office filed the Complaint for Injunctive Relief and Civil Penalties on Feb. 19 against Christina Lester, June Yurish and Kristin Douty in Berkeley Circuit Court.
Lester is a former special needs teacher at Berkeley Heights Elementary School. Yurish and Douty were two teacher’s aide at the school as well. They worked with special needs students.
The complaint alleges the three defendants each verbally assaulted two nonverbal autistic children. The allegations stem from audio captured by a recording made by a mother of one of the children in November who had put a recording device in her daughter’s hair before she went to school.
“No student should suffer the verbal assault endured by these students,” Morrisey said. “Our office will use every ounce of its authority to protect children from abuse, especially from adults placed in a position of trust.
“We may have limited criminal authority, but this filing demonstrates our commitment to use civil tools to bring proven wrongdoers to justice.”
The complaint alleges the three women verbally assaulted the students with threats of physical violence. It seeks a court order saying the three defendants violated the state’s Human Rights Act and a $5,000 civil penalty for each violation. It also seeks an injunction blocking them from ever holding a position (paid or volunteer) where they supervise or care for children or having contact with the plaintiff students and their families.
Lester resigned from her teaching position in December, while Yurish and Douty resigned earlier this month.
Morrisey said the complaint was filed to protect students with special needs and enforce the state’s Human Rights Act so as to hold accountable anyone who threatens to assault an individual because of his or her disability. The complaint specifically reserves the right to pursue similar action against any others revealed to have violated the state’s Human Rights Act
Morrisey’s office said the investigation into the Berkeley Heights matter is ongoing.
The complaint also seeks court costs, attorneys fees and other relief.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Bob Leslie and Assistant AG Laurel Lackey are handling the case for the AG’s office.
Berkeley Circuit Court case number 19-C-89