Settlement reached in case of disturbing audio recording made inside special needs class

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This article was published on WJLA 10 by WCHS/ABC7 Staff on November 23, 2020.

WASHINGTON (ABC7) — An undisclosed settlement was reached Monday in a Berkeley County, West Virginia civil lawsuit that alleged a student was subject to abuse in a special needs classroom at a Martinsburg elementary school.

The lawsuit stemmed from a recording that ABC7 obtained after mother Amber Pack placed a recording device in her daughter’s hair.

The hearings were held before Judge Laura Faircloth. There were four children in the classroom and four separate hearings held for each child involved in the suit.

On Friday, the Berkeley County Board of Education voted in favor of settling the 2018 suit.

The settlement will remain confidential given the involvement of a minor. Confidentiality was also a term of resolving the litigation.

In October 2018, Pack put the device in her 6-year-old daughter’s hair after noticing bruises on her when she came home from school at Berkeley Heights Elementary.

In February 2019, she filed suit against the board, former teacher Christina Lester, former aides June Yurish, and Kristin Douty and Principal Amber Boeckmann.

“The Pack family is pleased that the civil lawsuits have been amicably resolved. They remain committed to seeing the criminal matter through to conclusion as well,” Pack’s attorney, Ben Salango, said following the hearings on Monday.

In August 2019, Douty, Yurish and Lester were arrested and charged with failure to report abuse. The criminal cases are still awaiting trial.

The incident led to legislation in West Virginia that cameras would be placed in special needs classrooms.

These are quotes from the transcripts of Pack’s recordings:

  • Instructor #1: “This one I could punch her right in her face.”
  • Instructor #2: “You got to go pee-pee? Pee-pee? Or do you not have to go pee-pee and you just want to go **** *** in a chair?”
  • Instructor #2: “I’m going to pull your hair until you start crying.”
  • Instructor #3: “Don’t throw it. Don’t throw. You animal you.”
  • Instructor #2: “Yep. You wench.”
  • Instructor #2: “You’re like a pygmy. You’re like a pygmy thing.”
  • Instructor #2: “How your tears dried up so quickly, crocodile.”
  • Instructor #3: “And then she wants to destroy everything in sight.”
  • Instructor #2: “I’m a knock you out.”
  • Instructor #2: “I am gonna beat your butt for sure and Owen, you’re gonna get one just cause.”
  • Instructor #1: “Growl at me. I dare you and you won’t get one. Go ahead. There is nothing says I have to give you a snack. Nothing.”
  • Instructor #2: “Looks like you get nothing Owen. Ha ha. Sorry buddy.”

“I couldn’t eat for three days. My stomach. I was so upset. Every time I looked at her I would start crying,” Pack said.

Kasey Murphy, whose 6-year old son Owen was in the same class, said during a late October parents-teacher conference nobody alerted her to the recording, even though Pack had already handed it over to the school district.

“I’ve never heard from the principal. Never heard from the Superintendent. I’ve never heard from any of them,” Murphy said.

It wasn’t until November 2018, after Pack posted a clip of the recording on Facebook, that Murphy became aware of it.