BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Twenty-year-old Connor Walker works at a Harper Road hotel. Born prematurely, he beat the odds and learned to walk, talk, and even play sports. In school, he was given an individualized education program, or IEP, to meet his special needs.
After a number of southern West Virginia educators were caught allegedly caught on camera abusing special needs students inside their classrooms recently, Connor’s mother, Elizabeth Walker, spoke out on Connor’s experience in the public school system.
Walker said on Tuesday, October 17, 2023, that his teachers in southern West Virginia weren’t always supportive. She alleged a classroom teacher once suggested she give up because Connor “couldn’t learn anything, anyway.”
She said the teacher assigned Connor a seat closest to the door, despite his sensory issues which make slamming doors and other loud noises upsetting for him.
“She was just saying all of these horrible things about a 10-year-old little boy,” said Walker. “I don’t know how I didn’t, like, totally go off.”
Walker eventually began to homeschool Connor, out of fear for his emotional health, she said.
Since December, four educators — one in Fayette County and three in Raleigh County— have been arrested, after police alleged that they were caught on camera hitting, kicking, restraining, even wiping saliva on, special needs students.
“I think it probably happens more than we are aware of,” said Walker. “Now, do I think every teacher, every special ed teacher does it? No. But I think there’s more of them than we probably realize.”
Fayette County Schools Superintendent Gary Hough pointed out that classrooms have cameras now, and new legislation require principals to review it.
In addition, lawmakers have made it a felony for teachers to abuse a child.
Hough said the factors have led to an increase in arrests.
“The other part that’s really important, we feel, is being attentive to what’s going on,” Hough said. “I mentioned, if you see an employee that tends to be angry, or frustrated, that’s probably an area where we need to look at that tape a little bit more.”