The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 3, 2013

State DOE looks into complaints against teacher

Fayette County

By Jessica Farrish
Register-Herald Reporter

— A state teaching committee is investigating complaints against a Fayetteville teacher who was arrested Tuesday for allegedly hitting two of her kindergarten students last school year.

Kathleen Wade, 57, of Hico, was charged with two counts of battery against two of her students. She was arraigned before Fayette County Magistrate Sharon McGraw on Tuesday and released on $5,000 bond.

The alleged incidents occurred on May 2 and May 3.

West Virginia Department of Education Communications Office Executive Director Liza Cordeiro said Friday that her office is currently investigating complaints against Wade.

The Fayette County school system is currently in a “take-over” status by the State Department of Education.

“Any time there are allegations to that level (of battery), we as a Department of Education are made aware of them, whether it is a take-over county or not,” said Cordeiro. “At that point, we do an internal investigation.”

Cordeiro said Friday that the findings of the investigation will be referred to the Committee on Professional Teaching Standards, a state committee of educators, lawyers, business people and others.

That committee will examine the evidence and make a recommendation to State Schools Superintendent Jim Phares on whether the teacher should remain licensed in the state, said Cordeiro.

Cordeiro added that by law, she is unable to comment on the specifics of Wade’s case.

In the cases for which she was charged Tuesday, the criminal complaint stated that Child Protective Services worker Melenie Murphy contacted West Virginia State Police on May 8 to report that Wade had “smacked” a kindergarten student on top of the head as a disciplinary action.

When Sgt. K.D. Horrocks spoke with Fayetteville librarians Kathy Gilliam and Penny Bowles, the two women reported that they had witnessed the incident.

The women said Wade had brought her kindergarten class to the Fayetteville Public Library on May 2, and two children had started arguing.

“Ms. Wade had intervened to attempt to remedy the situation,” Horrocks stated. “Ms. Wade smacked (a juvenile) on top of the head hard enough that it caused (the juvenile) to start crying. Due to the nature of this disciplinary measure, Ms. Gilliam and Ms. Bowles felt compelled to report the incident.”

After speaking with the librarians, Horrocks spoke to Wade’s teacher’s aide, Yvonne Bowles.

Bowles told Horrocks that on May 3, Wade had been “scolding” one of the students for an “alleged theft,” Horrocks wrote.

“Ms. Wade was behind (the child) and used both of her hands to smack (the child) on both of his ears,” Horrocks stated in the criminal complaint.

The aide felt the “force was excessive and that this incident needed to be reported to the appropriate personnel,” according to court documents.

Fayette Schools Superintendent Keith Butcher said Thursday that school personnel have known about the alleged incidents since May and that Wade had not continued to work in the classroom after the incidents were reported to his office.

“The school system is aware of the criminal complaint, and while Ms. Wade is still an employee, the county will take steps to ensure that she is not currently in contact with students,” said Butcher.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com