Protect vulnerable children in West Virginia

You may have heard the old suggestion that some people commit such egregious misdeeds at work that they ought to be fired before they can resign. One wonders why that did not happen in the Berkeley County school system.

There, a teacher and two aides resigned from their positions after they fell into a parent’s trap.

According to published reports, the three were involved with a special education class. Two of the students are autistic and, as a result, are categorized as “non-verbal.”

One six-year-old’s mother suspected her daughter was being abused in the classroom. So she planted a small audio recording device in the youngster’s hair.

It picked up the two aides threatening the child multiple times. Threats to punch a child in the face can be heard on the recording.

An investigator from the Berkeley County prosecuting attorney’s office looked into the matter. He reported “shocking and disturbing” behavior by the educators. He cited “numerous instances of verbal abuse that are frankly unconscionable…”

No charges were filed because, as the prosecuting attorney explained, “verbal abuse of children is not a criminal act.”

Not even threatening them with physical violence? If that is not a crime, state legislators should make it one under the law.

After the situation was investigated, the county board of education accepted resignations from the three culprits.

To their credit, Berkeley County school board members did what they could to protect other children. In accepting the aides’ resignations, they stipulated the state Department of Education was to be notified of the circumstances.

Then state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey stepped in. This week, he filed a human rights complaint against the three ex-school employees. One key request is that they be enjoined by a court from ever occupying a position, whether paid or not, in which they supervise children under 18 years of age.

Why does that require a court order? Is there no other protection for vulnerable children? Or, if safeguards exist in state policy and statute, are they adequate?

Clearly, if the facts of the case are as Morrisey believes, he ought to get the court order he seeks. Then legislators should look into whether action is required on their part.