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Mason superintendent shows support for principal charged with abuse

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Mason County superintendent of schools declared unwavering support for a Point Pleasant Intermediate principal arrested earlier this month for allegedly assaulting an 11-year-old child on a school bus, according to an email obtained by the Gazette.

Suzanne Dickens told several county principals in the email that she had reviewed the school bus security camera footage and did not consider Moffett's actions child abuse. She sent the email on April 9, four days after Cameron Moffett was arrested for the incident and charged with felony child abuse.

Dickens describes Moffett's actions as "the restraint of a special education student," and said the school board attorney and representatives from the state Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Resources agreed with her assessment.

"Unfortunately, we are not in charge," Dickens states. She later added, "Make no mistake ... I am supporting Cameron."

State Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro confirmed that a department representative viewed the video and told Dickens that Moffett's conduct, while inappropriate, may not warrant a criminal charge.

"Our side of the conversation was that there was definitely a fine line between inappropriate actions by a professional educator and actions that would constitute, or fall under the definition of criminal behavior and or child abuse," Cordeiro said.

DHHR spokeswoman Marsha Dadisman said she could not confirm or deny that a DHHR representative had found that the criminal allegations were baseless.

The email also confirms that Moffett is still employed within the school system, though he apparently works out of an off-site office in the maintenance department. His duties include analysis of reports on energy consumption, test preparation, and safety, the email states.

"You may contact him either at the Maintenance Department or via e-mail to lend your support," Dickens writes in the email.

Dickens did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

On March 21, bus security cameras recorded Moffett grabbing Zachary Plants from a seat near the front and rolling him down the bus stairs as the boy screamed "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."

A criminal complaint filed in Mason County Magistrate Court states that once outside the bus, Moffett held Plants to the pavement with his knee to his back.

Plants was allegedly being bullied by two of his seatmates. A teacher and bus driver asked him to change seats. When he refused, they called for Moffett, according to Mike Clifford, a lawyer for the boy's family.

The family sued Moffett and the Mason County Board of Education last week.

Plants is on the district's individualized education plan, indicating that he has special needs. Clifford's lawsuit does not outline the boy's exact condition.

Cordeiro indicated last week that the county school board should conduct its own investigation into the abuse allegations against Moffett.

Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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