And Then There Was One

And Then There Was One


And then, there was one.

One child, one family, left amongst the rubble called the special education classroom at Berkeley Heights Elementary in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

I knew there were four children, but I had not heard his story.

Until today.

His name is Yael.

He’s just five years old and has autism and epilepsy and, like his classmates, he’s non-verbal.

Always a happy child, lover of music, and marked by bright smiles, at least until he began his new classroom with Christina Lester, Kristin Douty, and June Yurish.

He came home crying, screaming, and having tantrums, desperate to be held and his parents thought it must be jealousy of his baby sister.

On the day of the infamous recording, he was not at school, though the teachers talk about their distaste for the Hispanic boy.

On October 29, his mother went to school for a teacher conference and nothing was mentioned regarding the recording, abuse or any action.

Of course, there was nothing to report because no action has been taken, no report filed, no teachers scolded, no families informed, no next steps.

His mother, Shayla, asked if he had tantrums at school and how they were handled. Ms. Lester stated that she would put him in a chair and put a partition around him until he calmed down, which Shayla thought strange.

On November 14, Yael was named student of the month and his family joined him for lunch. There were three substitutes aides and Shayla wrongly guessed they must be in a meeting.

Never told the aides had been placed on paid leave two weeks before and that Miss Lester was placed on leave that very day.

On December 6th, the school called to say Yael was being transferred because he didn’t have a teacher.

On January 11, he was moved and his mama?

“I finally heard what happened at the school by facebook and ever since that day I cry knowing that I send him to school with those abusers.”

Since the transfer, Yael is back to his old self. He no longer comes crying and screaming, no more tantrums or needing to be held. He arrives home happy from school, kisses his baby sister, and listens to music.

Shayla shared, “We need justice for our nonverbal children. Please, together, we could be their voices.”

That’s not too much to ask.

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