WELLSVILLE - A woman accused of attacking her sister-in-law, a handicapped 18-year-old Wellsville High School student, has been charged with assault and was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon.
Wellsville Police arrested 36-year-old Jenifer Fisher at the Clark Avenue residence she shares with her husband, Jeff T. Fisher, and the physically- and mentally-disabled student, for whom the couple are legal guardians.
Following her arrest, Fisher was transported to the county jail in Lisbon.
According to the police report, Fisher admitted to having "maced" the student, but claims she did so in self-defense. She also says she had experienced trouble with the student's behavior in the past and had attempted to contact village police about the matter, but her concerns were never addressed.
When interviewed by police, the student said Fisher had sprayed her in the face with chemical Mace during an argument the previous night, but she had been able to wash the irritant off her face and arms in the shower. The student was observed to have swollen eyes and scratch marks on her face and hands. When officers asked about the scratches, she attributed them to a dog she had played with over the weekend.
Emily Wilson, who teaches the multi-handicapped students at Wellsville High School, says she noticed something "out of the ordinary" about the student, and after talking with her, spoke to school principal Linda Rolley. From there, Wellsville Police Officer Shawn Bloor, who serves as the school's resource officer, was contacted.
Wilson admitted it can be difficult identifying issues of abuse and neglect affecting her students, but she felt that what this student was saying required her to notify school administration. "I just had to let someone know," she said.
According to Wilson, this was the first instance that raised concerns regarding possible abuse of the student. "I've never had reason to believe that anything else was going on, other than her homelife was stable," she said. The only previous issue, she claims, had been a period where the student's medications weren't properly regulated. "It affected her behavior in school," she says, but the issue was addressed and subsequently corrected.
Principal Rolley declined to comment on the matter. However, Superintendent Richard Bereschik says the process unfolded the way that it was supposed to, according not only to district policy but state mandate. "If we think there is abuse or neglect, we are obligated to report that to the officials," he said.
The case also highlights the importance of having resource officers available in the schools three days a week, he added. "It helps us out a lot."