By SCOTT TAYLOR, WJLA
BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. (CIRCA via WJLA) — An 8-year-old girl in West Virginia did not want to go back to school. Her mother wanted to find out why.
So one day in the fall, Amber Pack sent her daughter to school with a recording device in her hair. What she heard was very disturbing and has raised questions about what went on inside a special education classroom at her daughter's elementary school.
Instructor No. 1: "I ought to back-hand you right in your teeth. How is that for anxiety?"
According to parents, that's a secret audio recording of an instructor talking to children inside a special education class at Berkeley Heights Elementary School in Martinsburg.
Instructor No. 1: "This one I could punch her right in her face."
Instructor No. 2: "You got to go pee-pee? Pee-pee? Or do you not have to go pee-pee and you just want to go (expletive) in a chair?"
Instructor No. 2: "I'm going to pull your hair until you start crying."
Instructor No. 3: "Don't throw it. Don't throw. You animal you."
Instructor No. 2: "Yep. You wench."
Instructor No. 2: "You're like a pygmy. You're like a pygmy thing."
The next day, Pack alerted the school district and the Martinsburg Police Department. She thinks the verbal abuse had been going on a while and said the above exchange came from just one day, eight hours, of recording.
Sometimes, you can hear the instructors singing songs and reading stories to students and other times:
Instructor No. 2: “How your tears dried up so quickly crocodile.”
Instructor No. 3: “And then she wants to destroy everything in sight.”
Instructor No. 2: "I'm a knock you out."
"I couldn't eat for three days," Pack said. "My stomach. I was so upset. Every time I looked at (my daughter), I would start crying."
"It's sickening. People don't even talk to animals like that, and they are talking to nonverbal children who don't understand why they are talking to them like that."
Kasey Murphy, whose 6-year old son, Owen, is in the same class, said that during a late-October parent-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, after Pack posted a clip of the recording on Facebook, that Murphy became aware of it.
Instructor No. 2: "I am gonna beat your butt for sure, and Owen, you're gonna get one just ... just cause."
"It's sickening," Murphy said. "People don't even talk to animals like that, and they are talking to nonverbal children who don't understand why they are talking to them like that. They aren't doing anything wrong."
On the recording, you can hear the instructors tease and refuse to give Owen food.
Instructor No. 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 No. 2: "Looks like you get nothing Owen. Haha. Sorry buddy."
The Berkeley County Prosecutor's Office found no criminal wrongdoing, but prosecutor Catie Wilkes Delligatti told both mothers in a letter, “I am not in any way condoning the verbal treatment of your children by the individuals in the classroom."
All three instructors are on paid administrative leave.
"I don't understand why you treated her the way you treated her," Pack said. "She didn't deserve that. No kid does.”
The school district, which declined multiple interview requests, is still investigating and says state law prevents it from sharing information. The Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Department of Education just opened its own investigation.
Only one of the three instructors has said anything to Circa partner WJLA. She had no comment.
Both students are now in different schools, and both parents said the children are very happy in their new classrooms.
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