JCPS school board members take part in training in wake of Head Start abuse allegations

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools is in the process of correcting problems after alarming allegations of abuse in the district’s Head Start program.

District officials say they are taking steps to correct problems since the accusations surfaced. Last month, the Jefferson County Board of Education unanimously approved what they say is an aggressive corrective action plan. 

Part of that plan involves new training. On Wednesday morning, that training began. JCPS school board members, parents and several Head Start educators gathered Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn for a nearly 8-hour training session.

Acting Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio says training for principals and teachers started two weeks ago, and Wednesday's session was for school board members.

The Head Start program is designed for children from low-income families whose parents meet eligibility guidelines. 

The training comes after seven teachers and assistants within the program were fired last month after a report from the Administration for Children and Families was released in August.

Twenty-three incidents in total are alleged to have happened in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs in several JCPS schools last year. Some of those complaints include staff slapping students, spanking, forcing students to eat food, grabbing and squeezing kids by the arms, putting one student in a closet and dumping children off cots onto the floor.

Dr. Pollio said fixing the program is an imperative -- and that Head Start is very important to the district.

"The vast majority of them are exceptional classrooms with great teachers and staff members, but we've got to make sure we do the right things in 100 percent of them, and we’re committed to doing that," said Dr. Pollio.

"At the end of the day -- at the beginning of the day -- it's about our children, and we have to get this right because it's not optional," said Diane Porter, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education who represents District 1.

The Corrective Action Plan had to be put into place by the end of last month.

Dr. Pollio says once training wraps up, the Head Start office will respond and monitor the program closely.

There’s no word on when that could happen.

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