(04/11/2001)
By Bob Weaver

A Sand Ridge man has been charged with assault and trespassing Wednesday (April 11) by principal Sheri Graham of the Arnoldsburg Elementary School. Graham contacted 911 after Shirley Rush and his wife of Sand Ridge came to see her. The police report said Rush was "pointing his finger at the victim and swinging his finger closer to the victim's face."

Graham reported that Rush said "I will slap you," according to a statement taken by Deputy Sheriff Carl Ballengee. The principal then called for Dan Cosgrove, after she thought Rush was going to cause her physical harm. Graham said Rush failed to leave, although the pair said they left shortly thereafter.

Ora Rush, wife of Shirley Rush, said Graham's account is a fabrication. "We told Ms. Graham were were going to hire a lawyer regarding discrimination against their seven-year-old grandson, who has a 50% hearing loss." She said Ms. Graham went into a screaming rage.

Rush said Graham advised her to remove her grandson from school after some incidents, but Graham has refused to put in writing he has been suspended. He has been kept home from school . Ms. Rush claims Graham punishes the child by having him sit in the corner of the cafeteria.

During the past months, the Rush family and others have filed formal grievances against Graham regarding problems they felt were mishandled. "Graham declined to pick up her Level 1 grievance from the post office," said Rush.

Principal Graham was reportedly angered about statements made at a Calhoun School Board meeting in 1999 by three dissatisfied parents. She hired a lawyer and sent letters to parents threatening to bring slander suits against them.

Much of the discontent was connected to the delivery of the MicroSociety program at Arnoldsburg. The Calhoun County Board of Education had refused to accept a petition calling for her removal, stating proper grievance procedures must be followed. About 175 people had signed the document.

A special law exists regarding assault on a school employee. The statue centers on situations where individuals are "attempting to commit a violent injury....while an employee is engaged in the performance of his or her duties, or if the motive of the assault is retaliation for some action taken by the employee to supervise or discipline one or more pupils .... in violation of Chapter 61, article 2, section 15a of the code of the State of West Virginia."

The case will continue in the Calhoun magistrate court.


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