Former West Virginia Teacher, Aides Charged After Mom Secretly Records Alleged Abuse
Amber Pack hid a small recorder in her autistic daughter's hair bun when she sent her to school one day
A former West Virginia teacher and her two aides have been arrested after they were allegedly recorded abusing a 6-year-old girl with autism.
On Friday, teacher Christina Lester and her aides June Yurish and Kristin Douty were charged with misdemeanor failure to report abuse or neglect, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced in a press release obtained by PEOPLE.
The trio’s arrest comes months after the little girl’s mother, Amber Pack, found bruises on her 6-year-old daughter, Adri, when she came home from school, the Pack family attorney, Ben Salango, tells PEOPLE.
Adri is nonverbal but she would actively resist going to school, crying when she had to get on the bus.
On Oct. 5, Pack sent Adri back to school at Berkeley Heights Elementary with a small recording device she had ordered online tucked into her daughter’s bun.
“When she came back, she was just horrified and could not believe what she heard,” Salango tells PEOPLE.
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On the 8-hour recording, Pack heard Lester, Yurish and Douty allegedly threatening Adri and her classmates, saying they would knock their teeth out or withhold food.
Pack called police, who met with the school principal the next week and played the audio. When the teachers were questioned about the recording, they allegedly said they were not speaking to the children but to one another.
“To make matters worse, the deputy superintendent called the principal to tell Pack to destroy the file,” Salango alleges. “It’s in writing.”
Prosecutors initially failed to press charges, so in February, Pack turned to social media and shared the recording on her Facebook page, where it garnered 10 million views within 24 hours.
Soon after that, the attorney general filed a civil lawsuit against Lester, Yurish and Douty for verbally assaulting students.
In May, the lawsuit was amended to include Berkeley Heights Principal Amber Boeckmann and Berkeley County Deputy Superintendent Margaret F. Kursey, who allegedly “actively tried to hinder the investigation and obscure evidence with a flawed investigation, an order to destroy the recording and a failure to report the matter to Child Protective Services,” according to a press release obtained by PEOPLE.
“School administrators must be held to a higher standard, one that protects our children and vigorously responds to allegations of abuse,” Morrisey said in the release. “Today’s actions reaffirm our commitment to protect the most vulnerable of our society, especially children.”
The Berkeley County Board of Education was also added to the civil lawsuit.
None of the defendants returned calls for comments Monday.
Today, Adri is enrolled in a new school, “a very loving environment and doing well,” Salango says, noting that her family is happy with the recent charges.
“The Pack family and I are relieved that criminal charges were brought,” Salango says. “None of us ever lost hope in the system, we truly believe the system works even if it is slow at times and we’re very happy that the prosecutor decided to charge [these] three people.”