W. Va. Officers Questioning of Students Sparks Controversy

FOLLANSBEE, W.Va. --

A vandalism investigation in Follansbee is sparking controversy at a Brooke County middle school.

Superintendent Dr. Kathy Kidder confirms that on Feb. 24, police Officer Harry Myers questioned eight or nine children at Follansbee Middle School about damage to the city's ice rink, but no one notified the student's parents.

"Oh my God. They're probably petrified," said Lorrie McMahon, of Follansbee. "I would like to know if my kid was being questioned by a police officer."

"I wouldn't appreciate that if my kid being was questioned without being notified," said Robert Canei, also of Follansbee.

Canei's three children attend Follansbee Middle School and this incident isn't sitting well with him.

"They might be scared or intimidated," he said. "They could be feeling like they did something wrong and they didn't."

Questioning kids without parental knowledge is also against the Brooke County School Board's policy.

According to the superintendent, the board's previous policy required that parents and an attorney be notified before law enforcement questioned students under 14 and that parents be called for kids 14 to 16.

After the recent incident, the school board changed the policy. Now, no matter what a student's age, parents must be called before police speak to children.

"They're minors. We should be aware of what they're possibly accused of," said McMahon.

Kidder said school officials contacted Follansbee police, Wellsburg police and the Brooke County Sheriff's Office to inform them of the school policy. In addition, a school administrator faced disciplinary action from the school board for letting the officer inside the building to question students without parental knowledge.

The administrator still works for Brooke County Schools and is fighting the disciplinary action.

NEWS9 spoke with two other concerned parents of Follansbee Middle School students on the phone Tuesday who were scheduled to speak at Monday's council meeting about the officer who questioned kids. One father couldn't attend and the other chose not to speak after hearing the mayor's prepared statement.

In a separate incident, Follansbee city officials said they are investigating a police officer, but they won't release information on the allegations or the officer's identity. At no time did Brooke County school officials, Follansbee city officials or police say the two incidents are connected.

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