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First court appearance in case of child being hit

WOODSTOCK – The first court appearance in cases involving a 5-year-old child allegedly being struck in school occurred Thursday morning in Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Stephen Povlish,  placed on leave as principal of Ashby Lee Elementary School, appeared Thursday in Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court before Judge Kevin Black, the first court appearance in cases involving accusations that a 5-year-old student was struck in school.

Another defendant facing related accusations, former Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office deputy and school resource officer Tabatha Raye Baker-Whitacre, was represented by her attorney, William Allen III, but did not appear in court.

In a quick hearing, the court set the next court appearance for both at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 31.

Virginia State Police charged Povlish and Baker-Whitacre each with a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery stemming from incidents that transpired in August, according to a prepared statement from the state police.

Neither has yet entered a plea, not guilty or guilty, to the charges against them.

After the hearing, Penrod declined to make a statement on Povlish’s behalf or answer if Povlish denied the charge, stating that will occur soon in the court.

Allen declined to be interviewed, stating he had to hurry to another court appearance.

Baker-Whitacre was terminated Aug. 20 after the allegations surfaced of violations of Sheriff’s Office departmental policy.

Sheriff Timothy C. Carter was contacted at about 2 p.m. Aug. 17 by a school official who alleged Baker-Whitacre had struck a 5-year-old child in the face. Capt. Wesley Dellinger of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office has said an investigation determined that Baker-Whitacre struck the child two more times, for a total of three incidents from Aug. 16 to Aug. 17.

There is an allegation that Povlish had also struck the same child once in a different incident, according to a court document.

Carter asked the state police to conduct an investigation into the allegations.

The state police have refused to release the criminal complaints in these cases.

“Any additional documentation is part of the criminal investigative file, which the Virginia State Police does not make public,” stated Corinne Geller, spokesperson for the Virginia State Police in an emailed response to a public records request.

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