Parents of Pineville Elementary students say kids were forced by principal to go outside without coats

Pineville Elementary School
Pineville Elementary School(WVVA)
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 4:18 PM EST
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PINEVILLE, W.Va. (WVVA) - When parents picked their children up from Pineville Elementary School last Wednesday, November 16, they were expecting to hear about a normal school day. Instead, multiple parents say their kids told them about something unsettling: that they were forced to go outside, and some didn’t even have a chance to grab their coats.

It was spitting snow in Pineville that day with a wind chill of 31 degrees.

WVVA spoke to five parents, some of whom wished to remain anonymous, but they all told the same story.

“I’m livid,” said one parent. “...we send our kids to school where they are supposed to be safe and taken care of, and I feel like, honestly, I feel like it’s a form of child abuse. If a child is telling you- multiple children are telling you, ‘I’m cold. Can we please go in?’ there’s no reason you can’t take them in.”

These parents say the decision to go outside was made by the school’s principal, Melanie Keefer. According to the parents, their children went outside first for a fire drill and then went back outside again at recess.

But some of the older children were taken out a third time...

“They were pickin’ up cigarette butts, and they were pickin’ up- there was a dirty diaper, and they were having to pick up trash outside of the school,” said another parent.

Parents who spoke out about the incident have children in grades Pre-K through Fourth.

“My daughter is literally only three years old,” a concerned mother explained. “She is three years old, and she is 30 pounds. Like she is tiny. They force my daughter, who is literally crying and saying she’s cold and wants to go back in, to stay outside. Like, what type of person are you? Like, are you heartless toward children?”

But regardless of their child’s age, they are all seeking answers as to why this happened.

“I’m just really upset about it,” said Morgan Blankenship, a mother with three children enrolled at Pineville Elementary. “I’m concerned of what may happen in the future, and I feel like nothing probably will get done about it...I feel like there’s just no way to get help in fixing this situation or preventing it from happening again.”

Multiple parents WVVA spoke to also said that a teacher at the school was suspended for not making her students go outside. We were contacted by that teacher’s union representative, Brandon Tinney, who released a statement:

“Unfortunately, she cannot respond to this matter at this time, but we are very confident that this issue will be resolved soon, and Mrs. Knotts will be back with her students.”

Tinney could not say why the teacher was suspended as it is an open investigation.

WVVA reached out to the school and the Wyoming County Board of Education on multiple occasions. They are refusing to answer.

Keefer did release a statement the day after the incident claiming that the student’s safety and well-being were the school’s greatest concern. She did not mention anything about the situation that transpired on November 16 in her letter.

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