The Wilkes Sheriff’s Office charged a Daymark Recovery Services counselor with assault by strangulation and misdemeanor child abuse as a result of an incident involving a 9-year-old male student at C.C. Wright Elementary School.
Katrina W. Bullock, 58, of Roaring River, was arrested Monday by Det. Amanda Boyd of the sheriff’s office, the investigator on the case. Assault by strangulation is a felony.
The Oct. 8 warrant charging Bullock stated that she created “substantial risk of physical injury… by using unauthorized restraint technique on the child and slamming his body and legs to the walls and floor.”
The warrant also said Bullock assaulted the student by scratching his face and restricting his air flow when she placed her arm around his throat in a “headlock” position.
Chief Deputy David Carson of the sheriff’s office said the incident occurred while Bullock was working for Daymark at the school as a counselor. It happened about 2:30 p.m. Sept. 28, according to a sheriff’s office report filed by Boyd.
Carson said it occurred in a classroom with teachers and one other student present. He said he couldn’t comment on what led up to the incident or share any statements that Bullock made about the matter.
The Wilkes Department of Social Services reported the incident to the sheriff’s office as an assault on a minor by a counselor.
The Wilkes County Board of Education approved a contract with Daymark Recovery Services to have it provide mental health counseling for elementary students and therapeutic day treatment services for elementary and middle school students in the 2016-17 school year. These Daymark services were expanded in the Wilkes schools in 2017-18 and are continuing this school year.
When the Wilkes Journal-Patriot emailed questions to Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd about the Sept. 28 incident at C.C. Wright, Byrd only wished to say, “Mrs. Bullock is employed by Daymark, not Wilkes County Schools. Wilkes County Schools will fully cooperate with the investigation.”
Counselor no longer with Daymark
Billy West, president and CEO of Daymark, said via email that Bullock is no longer employed by Daymark.
West added that Daymark’s day treatment program for children in the Wilkes schools is designed to improve behavior and school performance for children who meet medical criteria.
“Daymark as an organization normally does not use restrictive, hands on interventions. In the case of day treatment, it is possible that behaviors can become aggressive enough from a patient that we must protect the patient from harm by using a restrictive intervention. If such a rare situation occurs, the techniques used should be as less restrictive in nature as possible and should never resemble anything close to what is described in the police report” about the Sept. 28 incident at C.C. Wright Elementary.
“To that end, we provide care to over 50,000 persons annually with over 400,000 services delivered and such restrictive interventions are less than 0.01 percentage point of what we do annually with zero negative incidents historically. The few staff that would provide this type of intervention are trained to do so and if they deviate from training then they are subject to a variety of actions from retraining to termination, depending on how gross an alleged incident is reported.”
He continued, “Our staff have a difficult job and mistakes happen. But when a mistake grossly deviates from training and puts a patient at risk, the employee is normally separated from our agency and the proper regulatory bodies contacted. In this case, because we take confidentially very seriously for the patients, stakeholders and employees we cannot comment on the specifics of the reported events, but only to say that we have followed all of our processes as described above and no lasting harm has occurred to any patient as a result of actions from any staff.”
Daymark is the primary provider of mental health and substance abuse services in Wilkes County through a contract with Asheville-based Vaya Health. Daymark is based in Concord and has facilities at West Park, North Wilkesboro.
The child’s mother told the Wilkes Journal-Patriot that someone from the Wilkes County schools should have called her about the Sept. 28 incident. “The school has often called me in the past about other things involving my son. I feel like the ball was dropped by no one (from the schools) calling me” about what happened Sept. 28.
She added that when her son came home the day (a Friday) it occurred, he only said something about getting in trouble. She said she had no idea of what had happened until the next Tuesday when a Daymark official told her by phone that her son had been put in inappropriate restraint and that the Daymark counselor had been suspended from her job pending the outcome of the investigation.
She said no one fully told her what had occurred until Det. Boyd called Oct. 5 and gave her an account.
The mother added, “I expect my child to be safe at school. It’s one thing to have to deal with bullies,” but not with something like this. "We were hurt from this whole incident."