Adriel School under state, county investigation

Three employees facing neglect charges.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is investigating four complaints against the Adriel School, 414 N. Detroit St. in West Liberty, it has received since November, agency spokesman Ben Johnson said. He declined to comment on the nature of the complaints.

“It’s important to know that our investigations are administrative and will always take a backseat to any law enforcement investigation,” Johnson said.

Three employees face neglect charges in the Logan County Family Court regarding a December incident. West Liberty Police alleged those employees failed to report a case of a student biting another student.

Police first learned of the incident Dec. 20 when responding to a call about a youth running down North Detroit Street in West Liberty. The boy said he was running to find police because he had been repeatedly bitten by another student at the school.

Officers found and documented several bite wounds on his body that had broken skin and asked Adriel staff members if they were aware of the situation.

Ashley Crowden said she and another staff member, Joann Callen, were aware of the situation and were told not to take the boy to the hospital by their supervisor, James Lambert.

The three staff members will be arraigned on the charges Feb. 12 in family court.

Adriel CEO Kay Wyse declined an interview request and issued a statement.

“Adriel serves children with serious trauma histories, and emotional and social delays, among other life challenges,” Wyse said. “Adriel takes all allegations and reported concerns seriously and deals with them as necessary.”

About a dozen former and current Adriel employees went to a West Liberty Village Council meeting this week to voice their concerns about the direction the school is heading.

In a prepared letter, the group shared concerns about what they alleged is malnutrition at the school, insufficient staffing, taking in students they say staff members aren’t trained to care for and pressure from management to not contact law enforcement during violent situations.

“We are being guided to not call the police and press charges,” former employee Jef Tontonoz said. “We are being guided to not go outside the campus with this information, and this is information that is trickling down from the top two tiers of management.”

Wyse said in the statement that the school has all the necessary resources to care for its students and that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found that Adriel’s staffing levels met state standards earlier this year.

“(The students’) health is closely overseen and monitored by a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, local medical doctors, dietitians, dentists, optometrists and others,” she said in the statement. “Their meals are planned by a registered dietitian … Adriel believes that it is in everyone’s best interest for it to continue its focus on caring for the youth it serves.”

West Liberty Police Chief Shane Oelker said the school takes up a lot of his department’s time and resources.

In 2012, the department responded to 110 calls for service at Adriel. In 2013 they responded to more than 300 calls, and more than 400 last year.

He said even as high as those numbers are, Adriel staff should always feel comfortable calling 9-1-1 in any emergency situation.

“Everyone that is a victim of a crime or who believes they are a victim of a crime should have the opportunity to report that to the proper authorities,” Oelker said.

Lowell Buck lives next to the school and said he was on a committee that met with school leaders to discuss school issues until two years ago. He said those meetings stopped after the committee’s first meeting with Wyse as CEO.

“I get the feeling they don’t want the community knowing what goes on over there,” Buck said.

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