Union to JCPS security monitors: avoid physical altercation with - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Union to JCPS security monitors: avoid physical altercation with 'out of control' students

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John Stovall, president of Teamsters 783 John Stovall, president of Teamsters 783
Copy of the Dec. 22 letter that Stovall sent to JCPS security monitors. Copy of the Dec. 22 letter that Stovall sent to JCPS security monitors.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The president of the union that represents Jefferson County Public Schools security monitors is advising them to "restrain from any physical altercation with an out of control student" unless they are instructed by their immediate supervisor to intervene.

John Stovall, president of Teamsters Local 783, says his letter -- sent over winter break -- was prompted by the district's "new position with any physical interactions with unruly students."

"The district has made it very clear they will hold you responsible for any physical harm an unruly student may incur during the course of your duty to protect that student, other students as well as faculty members from their violent outburst," Stovall wrote in the Dec. 22 letter. "The district has now taken the unprecedented action of re-opening old cases, of past altercations with students to determine if the discipline given was severe enough or if more is needed."

In the past, Stovall said the district has suspended employees from work until an investigation is completed. He says he is having legal counsel "review this development."

"I must inform you that I strongly advise each and every one of you to restrain from any physical altercation with an out of control student unless you are instructed by your immediate supervisor to intervene or there is immediate danger to the students, faculty or to yourself," Stovall's letter states. "I thoroughly understand the severity of what I'm asking you to do but I can't sit back in good conscience and allow each of you to be the scapegoat for those students and the district's inaction on dealing with out of control students."

Stovall told WDRB in an interview this week that JCPS needs to create new guidelines on how security monitors are supposed to do their jobs.

According to the district's job description, in-school security monitors assist in the direct supervision of student activities by maintaining order and acceptable conduct of students and provide protection for students and faculty by patrolling all school grounds.

Over the past six months, JCPS has suspended at least a dozen employees, then reassigned them to non-instructional duties, while the district investigated "patterns of poor professional judgment and unsafe behaviors with students." Some of the cases are more than a decade old.

Superintendent Donna Hargens first referred to the employees in her report to the Jefferson County Board of Education on Aug. 23. During that 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 at the time. "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 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."

In mid-December, two of the staff members received unpaid suspensions following reviews of their past interactions with students.

Security monitor Paul Jarrell returned to work at King Elementary following his unpaid suspension from Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 and elementary teacher Rhonda Swann was moved from Hawthorne Elementary to Bloom Elementary following a five-day unpaid suspension, district officials told WDRB.

According to a letter from the district, Jarrell was suspended over a previous JCPS investigation that found a student at the former Kennedy Metro Middle School suffered bruises and muscle strain after being restrained by Jarrell.

The past investigation said Jarrell grabbed the student by the back of the neck and the back waist of his pants. it also noted several witnesses indicated that Jarrell held the student on the ground, using his knee on the student's back.

Swann's letter mentioned three past incidents, including a 2011 incident where she allegedly grabbed a student's arm and yanked him; a 2015 investigation substantiated that Swann left scratch marks after grabbing a student. Swann originally received a written reprimand in both incidents.

Her letter also mentions a 2016 investigation that did not substantiate an allegation that Swann had slapped a student's glasses from his face, but found she had removed the student's glasses and didn't return them until the end of the day.

The letter told Swann "physical discipline will not be tolerated nor the deprivation of a student's glasses as a means of punishment or redirection."

JCPS has not publicly listed the employees whose past investigations are being reviewed.

However, the district has since allowed several employees who were under investigation to return to their assigned jobs.

In October, Kevin Watson, a security officer at Breckinridge Metro High School, returned to work at the school with no further disciplinary action taken against him, because he had already been disciplined for a September 2015 incident in which a student suffered a head injury after being slammed onto a table, according to a copy of an investigative report in his personnel file, obtained by WDRB in an open records request.

Watson and Breckinridge Metro High principal Stuart "Butch" Cripe have since been sued by the student involved in that incident.

In November, Don Hudson, an assistant principal at Moore Traditional School returned to work with no further disciplinary action taken against him for a Feb. 2013 incident in which Hudson used an Aikido-style technique to restrain and guide a student to his office at Kennedy Metro Middle School. During that incident, the student received a bruise to the right side of his face and his wrist was broken. 

"As you have already received a disciplinary conference for your conduct, the district has no choice but to close this review," the Nov. 9 letter states. "You are hereby advised that if from this date forward, should you violate any board policy or state law, and such violation is substantiated, you will be terminated."

Stuart Academy teacher Matthew Hand was also reassigned from his teaching position as JCPS reviewed a December 2014 investigation in which a substantiated investigation said he had held students' arms behind their backs. 

Hand was allowed to return to work in November, according to a letter from Hargens dated Monday. He will also face no further discipline. 

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