BERKELEY COUNTY, WV (WJLA/CNN) - A mother says she was sick to her stomach after hearing secret audio recordings that caught three special education instructors in West Virginia casually threatening children with violence, insulting them and even withholding food.
The disturbing audio included the teachers, all women, verbally abusing children, saying things like, “I ought to back hand you right in your teeth. How is that for anxiety?”
The recordings were taken at Berkley Heights Elementary School in Martinsburg, WV. The teachers are now on leave.
Amber Pack sent her 8-year-old daughter to class with a recording device, hidden in her hair, after the child didn't want to go back to school.
It picked up one teacher saying, “I’ll punch you in your face,” and another using vulgar sexual language with a child.
"You got to go pee pee? Pee pee? Or do you not have to go pee pee and you just want to go j--- o-- in a chair?" the second can be heard saying.
That same instructor told another child, “I’m going to pull your hair until you start crying” and called one a “wench” and a “pygmy.”
A third called a child an “animal”
In many of the audio clips, the children appear to sound distressed, even crying.
The day after hearing the recordings, Pack alerted the school district and the Martinsburg Police Department.
She said she thought the verbal abuse had to have been going on a long time, noting that all that was caught just the first time she sent her daughter to school with a recording device.
"One day. Eight hours,” she said.
You can hear the instructors sometimes going through the day as normal, singing songs and reading stories to students.
Then, they’ll lash out.
"How your tears dried up so quickly, crocodile,” one says to a child.
“I'm a knock you out,” that same instructor says to another child.
Pack said after hearing the recordings she “couldn’t eat for three days.”
"I was so upset. Every time I looked at her I would start crying,” she said.
Another mother of a child in the class, Kasey Murphy, said 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 herself on Facebook, that Murphy and other parents became aware of it.
In one of the clips, an instructor can be heard directly addressing Murphy’s 6-year-old son Owen, telling one child she’s going to “beat your butt” and then telling Owen he also was going to "get one just… just cause.”
"it's sickening,” Murphy said. “People don't even 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."
On the recording, the instructors tease and refuse to give Owen 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,” she says.
Another instructor eggs the first teacher on. "Looks like you get nothing Owen. Ha ha. Sorry buddy,” she says.
The Berkley County Prosecutor's Office found no criminal wrongdoing, but County Prosecutor Catie Wilkes Delligatti told Murphy, “I am not in any way condoning the verbal treatment of your children by the individuals in the classroom.”
Right now all three instructors are on paid administrative leave.
"I don't understand why you treated her the way you treated her,” Pack said of her daughter. “She didn't deserve that. No kid does."
The school district is still investigating, and says state law prevents them from sharing information. The federal Department of Education is also getting involved.
One of the three instructors reached for comment said she had none.
The children are now in new classrooms, with new teachers, and the parents said they’re doing great.