LCHS teachers plead not guilty to criminal abuse charges

Published 11:26 am Thursday, February 7, 2019

STANFORD — The three Lincoln County High School employees accused of second-degree criminal abuse following an incident in a special-needs classroom pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday in District Court.

The charges stem from a Jan. 3 incident in the Alternative Curriculum Classroom at the high school. Rebecca Spurlock, Janie Hasty and Teresa Sparkman were charged with second-degree criminal abuse as a result of an investigation.

According to a criminal summons addressed to Spurlock, while working as a teacher in a “Special Ed class” at LCHS, a student who has autism and is non-verbal is seen on video walking around the room when the instructional assistant, Janie Hasty, allegedly starts punching at his head, “taunting the student.”

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“(Then) Teresa Sparkman and Janie (Hasty), whom are instructional assistants, had the student in a corner on the ground, Janie (Hasty) twisted his arm and then pulled him up off of the floor and shoved him. At one point Teresa (Sparkman) laughed,” the criminal summons states.

The summons continues to state that the food cart was brought into the room and when the student went to get his food, Hasty pushed him down.

“During the incident above, the above subject (Spurlock) is standing up with eight or nine students gathered around. At no point did the above subject (Spurlock) try to intervene and stop the incident from happening,” the summons states.

Following the completion of the school district’s internal investigation, the Lincoln County Board of Education voted to terminate Hasty and Sparkman from their positions, effective immediately, and relocate Spurlock from the classroom to the Student Support Center for the remainder of the year.

According to previous news reports, Superintendent Michael Rowe said Spurlock has been moved to a certified position under the supervision of Claudia Godbey, the district’s Director of Exceptional Children.

“The position has no contact with students,” Rowe previously said.

Second-degree criminal abuse is a class D felony in the state of Kentucky.

The three appeared in Lincoln County District Court Monday with separate attorneys. Each of them pleaded not-guilty to the charges.

Preliminary hearings for each have been scheduled for 2 p.m. on Feb. 18.

Krystal Freeman, a Lincoln County native and mother of a non-verbal autistic child, has been vocal about the alleged incident since it was first publicized.

Freeman, who is also friends with the victim’s mother, organized a small protest Jan. 14 outside of the Lincoln County Student Support Center, where participants held signs calling for Spurlock to be terminated.

On Monday, Freeman said she had delivered a petition of about 300 signatures asking Lincoln County Attorney Daryl Day to upgrade the charges to a “hate crime.”

“Targeting someone for their disability is a hate crime,” she said. “Why do we have hate crimes if we’re not going to use them?”

According to Kentucky state law, a sentencing judge determines whether an act was a hate crime.

Whether the petition has any success or not, Freeman said she thinks it will at least get the attention of local officials and reiterate the severity of the alleged crime that took place.

“I think I made a point,” she said.