UPDATE: JCPS suspends several employees amid student injury investigation
Several Jefferson County Public Schools employees were suspended Wednesday amid a district investigation into adult misconduct involving student injuries alleged to have occurred over the past decade.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Several Jefferson County Public Schools employees were suspended Wednesday amid a district investigation into adult misconduct involving student injuries alleged to have occurred over the past decade.
Allison Martin, a JCPS spokeswoman, initially told WDRB News that 14 employees had been suspended with pay and that they will be reassigned to non-instructional duties throughout the course of the investigation. She has since clarified that four of the employees are no longer employed with JCPS.
Martin would not name the employees, only to say they are the same 14 people that Superintendent Donna Hargens referred to in a report to the Jefferson County Board of Education on Aug. 23.
However, WDRB News has confirmed that at least two administrators -- Ramsey Middle School assistant principal Ronald Anthony Johnson and Moore Traditional School assistant principal Don Hudson, as well as two school security officers -- Kevin Watson at Breckinridge Metro High School and Paul Jarrell at King Elementary School -- are among several who were suspended by the district on Wednesday, although it is unclear why they were suspended.
In addition, Jodi Anderson, a Fairdale Elementary School teacher who had been the subject of several previous district investigations involving improper restraint, was also suspended on Wednesday.
Hargens' reference to the board in August came after it was reported in March that the district made a "data entry discrepancy" in reporting to the state the number of times students were either physically held down or confined to a room during the 2014-15 school year.
During the Aug. 23 meeting, Hargens told board members that the district's chief business officer, Tom Hudson, had "commenced a review of our ability to investigate claims of adult misconduct.”
"We are using not only internal resources and personnel to conduct this review, but also our outside counsel, Middleton Reutlinger," Hargens said. "As a result of this review, we have already taken at least one personnel action based on a review of past investigations. We are in the process of reviewing 14 other past investigations that involved student injuries and alleged employee misconduct, some of which go back to 2005."
Hargens told the board that Middleton Reutlinger has engaged a retired FBI agent, "on our behalf," to help go through the 14 cases.
"The message is clear," Hargens told the board. "We have high expectations for the behavior of our employees. We will tolerate nothing less than our students being treated with the utmost respect and care."
According to records obtained through an open records request, the one personnel action already taken involves former Layne Elementary School teacher Jodi Anderson, who was reassigned to Fairdale Elementary School over the summer. According to a July 2016 letter in Anderson's personnel file, the district said it deemed a "pattern a poor professional judgment and unsafe behavior."
Anderson was transferred from Layne to Fairdale and told she would not, in her tenure with JCPS, be assigned to a special-needs self-contained classroom. She was also told she was not permitted to certify in Safe Crisis Management.
Martin could not say why Anderson was suspended on Wednesday.
The documents obtained by WDRB show that JCPS investigators substantiated allegations against Anderson on three separate occasions since 2011.
The first incident happened in May of 2011, after Anderson allegedly held a child by his neck, causing scratches. According to the investigation, the child stated Anderson scratched him and that it is "OK because the teacher is trained for this."
The second incident happened in November 2014, when Anderson took a boy out of his chair and placed him against the wall with his hands behind him. She continued to restrain him for over 40 minutes, even after the boy began vomiting, then gave the boy Lysol wipes to clean up his own vomit.
The third incident occurred in December of 2015 after Anderson allegedly performed a Safe Crisis Management restraint on a student, even though her certification had been revoked after the November 2014 incident.
Martin would not say why Hudson or Watson were suspended; however, according to a report by The Courier-Journal, Watson was involved in a November 2015 incident in which a student suffered a head injury after being slammed onto a table. The injury allegedly occurred as Watson was attempting an Aikido-style restraint.
The newspaper also says Hudson used an Aikido-style technique to restrain and guide a student to his office in February 2013. During that incident, the student's wrist was shattered.
In August, Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt ordered schools to immediately stop using aikido martial art as a form of restraining students.
Johnson was the former principal and Jerrell was a former security officer at Kennedy Metro Middle School, which has since been closed by the district. As WDRB News reported in October 2105, both Johnson and Jerrell were involved in substantiated claims that they inappropriately “put their hands on students.”
Anderson, Johnson, Hudson, Watson and Jerrell could not be reached for immediate comment on Friday.
Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.
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