Chaperone pleads guilty to abuse charges
Sheila Ann Ray Sharp pleaded guilty to three of 10 charges of child abuse resulting in a risk of injury Friday before Circuit Judge James Rowe.
Sharp, 37, of Marlinton, was chaperoning a field trip on May 5 when she was alleged to have pricked middle school students with a lancet as they traveled on a school bus, according to a criminal complaint filed by State Police Sergeant Glenn Galloway.
The small needles, known as lancets, are typically used by diabetics when testing their blood sugar levels.
Sharp allegedly pricked two 13-year-old students with a lancet, causing them to bleed.
The complaint states that Sharp then coerced the two students into jabbing other classmates on the bus with the same lancets.
At one point, Sharp held down a 13-year-old male student and directed a female classmate to jab the lancet into his skin repeatedly, according to the complaint.
A total of 10 seventh-grade students were pricked with the needles as the bus traveled from Marlinton Middle School to Mountain State University in Beckley, the complaint stated.
While there were two teachers and as many as five chaperones accompanying the 34 students on the bus, school officials were not aware of the incident until upset parents of the victims contacted them after the trip, said Pocahontas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Law.
The county Board of Education hired Dr. Martha Dean, executive director of the Association of School Administrators, to conduct an independent investigation into the incident.
Dean, who conducted her investigation in June, recommended that the school system require non-employee chaperones to sign a written agreement outlining conduct and responsibilities.
In her report to the board, Dean also recommended that a policy be developed that set out clear expectations of teachers, chaperones and students.
Adults should also be seated throughout the bus during trips, Dean wrote.
Deanﾒs investigation showed that one of the teachers on the trip ﾓcame to the back of the bus one or more times to tell the students to behave themselves as they were being loud.ﾔ
The report said the teacher did not see either the lancet or the ﾓpokingﾔ that was occurring.
Students did not seem distressed nor did they report to any adult on the bus what was happening, according to the report.
However, one student did report the incident to a teacher riding the other bus when the students arrived at Mountain State University, the report said.
Students blamed an individual referred to in the report as ﾓStudent A,ﾔ not Sharp, for jabbing them, according to the report.
In two written statements, Sharp admitted to jabbing the first two students and holding down the male student, according to Gallowayﾒs complaint.
Sharp also admitted to offering money to a female student to jab one of the teachers on the bus with the lancet, the officer wrote.
Deanﾒs report said the incident was not planned by students and the students involved ﾓdid not protest loud enough to be heard with an understanding of what exactly was happening by the chaperones located in the other section(s) of the bus.ﾔ
The victims of the incident had to undergo a series of testsﾗprovided by the school systemﾗfor blood-borne diseases.
The mothers of five of the alleged victims sat in the courtroom during Fridayﾒs proceedings. None of them raised any objection when Rowe granted the prosecutionﾒs motion to dismiss the remaining seven counts against Sharp.
Prosecuting Attorney Walt Weiford said evidence showed the remaining victims were stabbed by a student, and not by Sharp. Those stabbings also appeared to have taken place outside of Pocahontas County, he said.
Under Roweﾒs order, Sharp will undergo a pre-sentencing evaluation by the courtﾒs probation department.
The judge advised the parents present Friday that they would have an opportunity to speak at Sharpﾒs sentencing, January 5.
Chad Virgil Keaton, 23, of Marlinton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor destruction of property Friday.
Keaton was charged in August with conspiracy and attempted breaking and entering. Accompanied by two minors, Keaton attempted to break into J & S Coin Laundry in January to steal DVD movies, Weiford told the court.
Keaton and the youths fled the scene shortly after they were discovered throwing a cinder block through the glass door of the establishment. They were later found and apprehended in Marlinton.
With his plea to the misdemeanor Friday, the felony charges against Keaton were dismissed.
Keaton faces a possible fine of $500 or up to one year in jail.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 5.