Final report, recommendation expected soon in North Elementary School incident

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. Monongalia County Board of Education President Ron Lytle expects an investigation into an incident at North Elementary School involving five autistic students.

In February, principal Natalie Webb and assistant principal Carol Muniz were placed on administrative leave, days later, three other staffers were also placed on leave as a result of the incident.

Former legal counsel for the West Virginia Department of Education and Charleston attorney Heather Hutchens was called on by the board to conduct the investigation. Board members wanted to carefully select an investigator who was completely impartial to all parties involved.

“We searched the state, and we got one that is independent of both the administration and the employees,” Lytle said. “We need a third set of eyes on this.”

Lytle said the district has allowed Hutchens to do a thorough investigation that included looking at video and interviewing those involved. The process has been deliberately slow to make sure it is accurate, fair, and complete.

“We’ve got their kids in our classrooms, and we have their kids in our schools, and it’s important they trust us,” Lytle said. “When something happens, make sure everybody that was involved is treated fairly.”

In the next week, Lytle expects to receive a recommendation from the administration. Lytle said the board has not been briefed on the details of the investigation, but he says they’ll act quickly once all the facts are known.

“Someone’s professional career and also the kids and what they’ve experienced and the parents,” Lytle said. “We need to make sure everyone gets a fair hearing in front of us once we are seated as the jury.”