W.Va. school board terminates contract with Berkeley center

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The state will no longer provide education services at a Berkeley County facility for youth who are in state custody.

The West Virginia Board of Education terminated its contract with the Board of Child Care of The United Methodist Church last week. The move followed two investigations by the Department of Health and Human Resources that found safety lapses and frequent runaways, The Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/1dbb4FR) reported.

"I don't think the board feels as though, right now, ultimately that we're in a situation where those youths are in the best situation," Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro told the newspaper.

Allison Adler, a DHHR spokeswoman, said the facility only accepted youth who were in state custody due to juvenile justice or child abuse and neglect cases.

The state had been providing a middle and high school education program at the facility because the youth are not allowed to attend regular public schools, said Jacob Green, who oversees the state Department of Education's Office of Institutional Education Programs.

The newspaper said Board of Child Care officials did not respond to its requests for comment.

The DHHR investigated the facility in December 2014 following a complaint that it was unsafe for staff and the youth housed there. Another investigation in March followed reports of residents running away from the facility.

Both investigations determined that the facility did not have enough staff to ensure the youths' safety.

The DHHR suspended placements and moved all 38 residents elsewhere in March. The agency then accepted a corrective plan from the facility that would allow youth to return to the facility.

The Board of Child Care wrote in its corrective plan that it had hired new staff, fired others and changed senior leadership. The facility also wrote that it was responding to the runaway incidents through "enhancements to training, assessments, staffing patterns and communication devices as well as changes to the culture and array of services provided by the agency including the addition of therapeutic behavioral services and the resumption of the use of restrictive behavioral techniques."

The corrective action plan requires an educational program for youth.

Mary Catherine Funk, the state school board's attorney, said the facility could partner with a county school board.

Nine state school board employees worked at the facility, Green said.

Cordeiro said it's unclear how many of the state-employed workers may be transferred to new locations for the next academic year's start.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com

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