Teacher suspended without pay in wake of charges

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 26, 2007

COURTLAND—A former teacher of the year at Meherrin Elementary School has been suspended without pay, pending the outcome of her trial in the death of her six-year-old son.

Rebecca Whitehurst, who was named Meherrin’s teacher of the year for the 2005-06 school year, was suspended &uot;in keeping with standard procedure in situations in which school employees face serious criminal charges,&uot; according to a statement released Tuesday by Assistant Superintendent M. Timothy Kelly of the Southampton County school system.

&uot;Because this is both a personnel matter and a criminal matter, the school system will not have any further statement,&uot; Kelly concluded.

Whitehurst was charged last week with drunken driving resulting in involuntary manslaughter, along with felony child neglect and possession of marijuana, as a result of an investigation that followed a single-vehicle accident on Darden Scout Road in the early hours of Sept. 15.

Six-year-old Dustin Jacob Whitehurst was killed when the sport utility vehicle his mother was driving ran off the road about three-quarters of a mile north of Governor Darden Road and flipped several times before landing on its roof in a field, according to police reports.

The boy, who police said was not secured in his seat, was ejected from the vehicle.

He was a first-grader at Meherrin Elementary School.

His mother was treated for injuries at Southampton Memorial Hospital and originally was charged with traffic offenses including driving under the influence, reckless driving, failing to secure a minor with a child restraint and failure to wear a seatbelt.

Southampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke said Tuesday that he expects an arraignment date to be set for Whitehurst later this week.

If a general district court judge finds probable cause to continue the legal proceedings, he would send the case to the grand jury, which could certify the charges to the county’s circuit court.