Investigation: 2500 students arrested or charged in JCPS in 3 ye - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Investigation: 2500 students arrested or charged in JCPS in 3 years

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A surprising number of students in Louisville are being handcuffed and hauled away from school to jail.

The Jefferson County attorney's office reports nearly 2,500 students have been charged or arrested during the last three years in connection to Jefferson County Public Schools. Jasmine Taylor was one of them.

"The school security, they take it too far. It's ridiculous," Taylor said.

Taylor was arrested at Liberty High School in May of 2014. It was the worst experience of her life, and one she says she'll never forget.

"Jail is nasty, I don't like that place at all," Taylor said.

Taylor was charged with terroristic threatening, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct after an incident at the school. The citation describes a meltdown, claiming Taylor cursed at the principal when she was told to go to class and then threw a tantrum -- hurling threats, her cell phone and her body during a fight with a school security officer. Taylor said she was shocked when she got out of jail and read about the story in the news because she remembered it much differently.

"She (the principal) literally followed us from the time I said the curse word," Taylor said. That's where it went all bad."

Taylor said she didn't curse at the principal; she says she said the F-word in the hallway with friends and the principal overheard it and told her to correct herself. "I said, 'yes ma'am,'" said Taylor.

The teen claims the principal continued to follow her down the hallway and ordered her to the office after she kissed her girlfriend before class.

The 19-year-old had just returned to JCPS. She admits that she dropped out of Southern High School at 16 after she was kicked out of the Academy At Shawnee following a disorderly conduct charge for a fight with another student. Taylor says she questioned whether she could be kicked out of school again over the F-word and that set off the fight with security. "

"He (security) was using all his weight to push me on the counter in the office and he had my arm twisted," Taylor recalled.

Taylor says another staff member was sitting on her legs as she cried out to the principal to get off the ground.

"I asked the principal if I could get up off the floor now and she said, 'yes, let her up off the floor,' and he (security) said, 'I think it needs to calm down more. He called me an 'it.' So I'll admit at that time there was some spitting. I tried to spit on him because I felt so disrespected."

After a few days in jail and another 10 on home incarceration, prosecutors dropped all felony charges against Jasmine Taylor. No terroristic threatening, no resisting arrest, just the misdemeanors remain, and they can be wiped off her record if she stays out of trouble. But Taylor says she will not go back to high school.

Pastor David Snardon is pushing JCPS to find a better way to deal with students like Taylor.

“The district has failed ... the district has failed those children." Snardon said.

Snardon is the co-president of Citizens of Louisville Organized United Together (or CLOUT).

"If you are suspended at least one time, it doubles the chances that you don't finish," Snardon said. "National stats show drop outs make up nearly 70 percent of the population in local jails. (It's) like being kicked out of school is a fast pass to prison."

JCPS leaders have realized a better approach is needed. According to JCPS data two out of every three students suspended in the district are poor and black. Last year 8,700 of the 13,100 suspensions issued at JCPS schools were students in the free and reduced lunch African American category. The district's own numbers suggest black students are punished more harshly than any of their other classmates.

Sarah Baker is part of the solution. The licensed social worker serves on Meyzeek Middle School's Student Response Team or SRT.

Teachers radio or call her office in the school when students act out.

"So you don't usually know what you're going into," Baker said. "You usually know it's a classroom disruption of some kind. It can be settled and the kids can be returned, that's what the teacher wants and that's what we want."

The idea is to diffuse the disruption before it turns into an explosion like Taylor's. A WDRB camera followed her for a day in May as the program was still being piloted. We watched her respond to a class where a student was continually talking in class. The student told Baker he was confused by the math lesson and was asking for help.

Baker advises the student " I want you to advocate for yourself. I want you to ask for help when you need it but you have to deal with in the right way to the right people. Make sure that's what it looks like. " Five minutes later the child is returned to class. "Before that teacher would of had to write a referral. It very well could have become a disciplinary issue. He could have had huge consequences for a small disruption and being confused, " said Baker

JCPS plans to roll out SRT's district wide in the fall. It's part of a larger initiative called Positive Behaviors Interventions and Support. or PBIS. The initiative may be to late for Jasmine Taylor but perhaps it can stop 2500 more stories from ending like her did, "It made me feel like I've been a criminal my whole life."

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