CHARLESTON — The Point Pleasant Intermediate School student who claims he was physically abused by Principal Cameron C. Moffett, 45, New Haven, has filed a civil suit, along with his mother, against Moffett and the Mason County Board of Education in U.S. District Court.
The suit was brought forth by 11-year old Zachary Plants and his mother, Melanie Plants of Point Pleasant.
The suit was filed on Thursday of last week and this weekend videos taken from the school bus where the abuse incident allegedly began went viral on the Internet. The Charleston Gazette was one of the first media outlets to upload the video which it obtained from the Plants’ attorney, Michael Clifford of Charleston. The video shows a busload of students preparing to depart for a field trip in March when it appears Zachary is not in his seat but on the floor. The lawsuit states the boy was seated before being pushed in the aisle by other students and in the video the bus driver appears to make a statement to a supervisor about Zachary being pushed out.
The video then shows this supervisor, who is standing next to the bus driver, ask Zachary “What is wrong?” At one point the bus driver also appears to go back to talk to Zachary in the video. The suit says a supervisor asked if the boy was ok and if he wanted to move to which the boy responded no.
The video then shows Moffett entering the bus where he stands at the front of the vehicle and twice asks Zachary to come to him without success. Moffett then goes down the aisle, stopping at what appears to be Zachary. At some point Moffett then asks the supervisor at the front of the bus to empty the bus of all students in front of he and Zachary. On the video, Moffett then appears to be speaking with Zachary who gets up and moves down the aisle but then stops about two rows from the front of the bus and sits down in a now empty seat. Moffett directs Zachary to stand up and continue to exit the bus but Zachary doesn’t comply and this is when the video shows Moffett actually touching the student.
The lawsuit recounts this moment as follows: “The defendant (Moffet)…did unlawfully and intentionally grab plaintiff, Zachary S. Plants, out of the seat, forced him to the bus floor and pushed and shoved him down the bus aisle and down the school bus steps where the plaintiff (Zachary) landed face down onto the school sidewalk, causing injury to his face and arm. Once outside the bus, the defendant (Moffett) proceeded to place his knee on the back of the plaintiff (Zachary) and refused to allow him to get up.”
In addition to claiming Moffett used excessive force given the situation, the lawsuit also states the Mason County Board of Education failed to adequately train, supervise and discipline Moffett. The suit says the board of education failed to advise and educate Moffett as to the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for Zachary Plants and training as to control over IEP based students. An IEP student is typically one who has special needs and though the suit identifies Zachary as being under an IEP, it doesn’t specify what this IEP addresses.
The suit also claims the board of education failed to intervene to control Moffett and failed to take punitive actions against the students who were bullying Zachary on the vehicle and pushed him to the floor of the vehicle.
Zachary Plants and his mother are asking for damages in an amount to be determined at trial, including compensatory and punitive damages. Robert C. Chambers is the presiding judge in the civil case.
Moffett, who was arrested on a felony child abuse charge by the Point Pleasant Police Department has been released on a $20,000 property bond. He has a preliminary hearing set for 9:30 a.m., April 23 in Mason County Magistrate Court. The hearing will determine if there is, or is not, probable cause to send the case on to further proceedings in Mason County Circuit Court. Last week several of Moffett’s PPIS colleagues attended a Mason County Board of Education meeting in what appeared to be a show of solidarity for the man who is no longer leading their school though remains an employee of the board of education.
Last week, Mason County Schools Superintendent Suzanne Dickens told the Point Pleasant Register Moffett remained principal but was working at an “off-school site.” Since then, an unnamed source has told the Point Pleasant Register Moffett is working at the county bus garage.