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Jury clears WV school in student punishment case

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County Schools was not negligent when a student was made to walk during recess, a Berkeley County Circuit Court jury found recently.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Berkeley County Board of Education, Superintendent Manny Arvon, and the principal and teacher at Mountain Ridge Intermediate School, according to court documents and Laura Sutton, Berkeley County Board of Education director of supportive services.

Sutton said the four-day trial was the result of a lawsuit filed in October 2014 by parents Neva and William Javage claiming that the school board and its employees were responsible for causing physical and emotional injuries to their son after he had to walk at recess for 10 minutes.

The lawsuit alleged a discipline policy of making students walk as a form of punishment at Mountain Ridge Intermediate School violated state law prohibiting corporal punishment.

Sutton said the court dismissed all claims. The jury trial questioned whether the board and its employees were negligent and, if so, whether the negligence caused heel pain and emotional harm to the Javages’ son.

After a short deliberation, according to Sutton, the jury returned a verdict finding that the Board of Education and its employees were not negligent and did not cause the boy’s heel pain or emotional harm.

Court documents signed by John Preston Bailey, United States District Judge stated, “this court finds that the Complaint fails to allege facts to state plausible claim that a federal constitutional violation occurred.”

Manny Arvon, superintendent of Berkeley County Schools, said he is pleased with the outcome.

“During recess there is to be active participation and the student was walking in an organized activity versus unorganized activity, which is just general play. The student participated in this for 10 minutes and after finishing the walk he played football with his friends,” Arvon said.

“It’s obvious from the findings of the jury that they did not believe that it constituted corporal punishment,” Arvon added.

Arvon said physical activity is key to a student’s productivity in school.

“It’s important in schools that we use recess for physical activity time. Students sit at a desk for seven hours a day and when they are outside it is important that they have some type of movement,” Arvon said.

Bridget Cohee of Steptoe and Johnson represented the Board and its employees in the lawsuit.

Staff Writer Katiann Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182 or at

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