West Virginia mother Amber Peck’s 8-year-old daughter didn’t want to go back to Berkeley Heights Elementary School, so she decided to find out why.
The Martinsburg mom stashed a recording device in the child’s hair, and what she found prompted the suspension of three instructors and investigations by the school district and U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office, WJLA reports.
“I couldn’t eat for three days. My stomach. I was so upset. Every time I looked at her I would start crying,” Peck said of the days after she reviewed the recording.
The audio, featuring three different special education teachers, includes threats of violence, profanity, name-calling, mockery, and ridicule – all in just a single 8-hour school day.
“I ought to back hand you right in your teeth. How is that for anxiety,” one teacher said.
The same teacher said of another student: “This one I could punch her right in her face.”
Another teacher told a student “I’m going to pull your hair until you start crying.” That teacher also described one student as a “wench” and another as a “pygmy.”
“You’re like a pygmy,” the teacher said. “You’re like a pygmy thing.”
That same teacher told a student “I’m going to knock you out,” and mocked a student who wanted to use the bathroom.
“You want to go pee-pee? Pee-pee?” the teacher said, “Or do you not have to go pee-pee and you just want to go **** *** in a chair?”
A third teacher is heard in the recording complaining about a student who “wants to destroy everything in sight,” and describing a student as an “animal.”
Two of the teachers seemed to take delight in torturing a student named Owen.
“I’m going to beat your butt for sure and Owen you’re gonna get one just just cause,” one of the teachers said.
The teachers later punished Owen by withholding food.
“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,” one teacher said.
“Looks like you get nothing Owen,” another chimed in, “Ha ha, sorry buddy.”
Owen’s mother, Kasey Murphy, wasn’t impressed.
“It’s sickening,” she said. “People don’t event talk to animals like that and they are talking to non-verbal children who don’t understand why they are talking to them like that. They aren’t doing anything wrong.”
Peck said she’s heartbroken by the ordeal.
“I don’t understand why you treated her the way you treated her,” she said. “She didn’t deserve that. No kid does.”
It’s unclear what, if any, punishment the teachers will face. All three were placed on paid leave as the district conducts an investigation. District officials refuse to comment about the situation.
Murphy told WJLA parents learned about the verbal abuse only after Peck posted the audio on Facebook in November, weeks after turning over the recording to school officials.
“I never heard from the principal. I never heard from the superintendent. I never heard from any of them,” Murphy said.
The Berkeley County Prosecutor’s Office declined to pursue criminal charges against the teachers, though County Prosecutor Catie Wilkes Delligatti clarified in a letter to parents that the decision is “not in any way condoning the verbal treatment of your children by the individuals in the classroom.”
The U.S. Department of Education “just opened” its own investigation through its Office of Civil Rights, WJLA reports.