No criminal charges will be filed against a Cardinal Valley Elementary School teacher who was videotaped dragging a young special-needs student down the school’s hallway last year, Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts said Friday.
After an investigation of the September incident, Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk had notified Charlene Looney that her contract with the district would be terminated. Fayette County Public Schools officials turned a video of the incident and their findings over to Roberts’ office.
“I have elected not to prosecute her,” Roberts said Friday. “I called her and told her. I just don’t think it’s a crime. I saw the video, looked at it, read all the reports, and I don’t think she committed a crime. I don’t think there’s a jury in the world that would convict her of that, and I don’t feel right charging her with it.”
In response, Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk issued a statement that said in part, “When I view that video, I clearly see a victim. I believe other members of our community would agree that there should be no tolerance for treating any child in such an inhumane manner, much less a six year old with special needs.
“The facts of this situation are undisputed: Ms. Looney dragged the limp body of a child with special needs and limited verbal capacity by his wrist down the hallway into a classroom and then used her leg to push the child out of the way and up against a filing cabinet.”
Charlene Looney’s attorney Jeff Walther said, “I think you can safely say Ms. Looney is happy with the result.”
Looney appealed the termination of her contract to a three-member hearing panel called a tribunal, according to state education department documents.
The tribunal heard the case on April 5 and 6 at the Fayette County school district’s central office in a closed hearing. The panel’s decision had not been made public by Friday afternoon.
Looney, an exceptional-child learning and behavior teacher, has been on unpaid leave.
The Herald-Leader obtained a copy of a video of the September incident from the school district and documents from the Kentucky Department of Education under the Kentucky Open Records Act. A report from a January school district personnel meeting about the matter explains what the video from security cameras in the hallway shows: that Looney dragged the non-verbal child by the wrists down the hallway and into a classroom. The child was not injured, the report said.
The report quoted Looney as saying the child was acting inappropriately in the hall. She approached him and took his hand. But he fell limp to the floor two to three times, refusing to comply. She then took the child by the wrists and dragged him through the hallway and into a classroom. There are no security cameras in classrooms.
Looney said her primary focus was getting the student to a classroom where she could help him calm down, the report said..
Superintendent Manny Caulk’s response
Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk gave this statement Friday in response to the Fayette County Attorney’s decision not to file criminal charges against Charlene Looney:
“When I view that video, I clearly see a victim. I believe other members of our community would agree that there should be no tolerance for treating any child in such an inhumane manner, much less a six-year-old with special needs.
“The facts of this situation are documented in the video: Ms. Looney dragged the limp body of a child with special needs and limited verbal capacity by his wrist down the hallway into a classroom and then used her leg to push the child out of the way and up against a filing cabinet. In documents previously released by the Kentucky Department of Education, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services substantiated the allegations and concluded that Ms. Looney lacked insight for her own behavior, exhibited poor self-control, and was unable to recognize situational risks that could potentially harm a child. Again, documents released by the Kentucky Department of Education to the Herald-Leader indicate Ms. Looney not only acknowledged these facts, she also told her principal about a previous incident in 2002 when she had been reported for grabbing a student. Is this how our community wants teachers to handle our most fragile and vulnerable children?
“In my opinion, Ms. Looney’s conduct is clearly unbecoming of a teacher as defined in Kentucky state case law and rises to the level of termination. Moreover, it violates the professional code of ethics for Kentucky teachers, state regulatory law, Fayette County Board of Education policy, and, quite frankly, exceeds the very bounds of human decency.”