The Courier-Journal reports that Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt has ordered a major review of the student restraint situation in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) based on gross under-reporting of restrain incidents and apparently in part due to the highly controversial injuries suffered by a 16-year-old student who was so severely restrained that both of his largest leg bones, his femurs, were broken.
To be sure, there is plenty of “smoke” surrounding this issue. Last month the injured boy’s parents won a $1.75 million judgment as a result of those serious, life-threatening injuries. Only a few days ago the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel staffed with legislators, judges, forensic medical doctors and other individuals found investigations by both the school district and local police were highly questionable. The review panel found ample evidence that the boy had suffered “abuse.” Following the release of the panel’s report, at least some of those local agencies indicated they were reopening their investigations. The Courier reports it was advised by a member of the panel that “the Louisville Metro Police Department Crimes Against Children Unit is reviewing its entire investigation.”
It will be interesting to see what management review team being sent to JCPS by Commissioner Pruitt actually finds. Earlier reports from Louisville indicate there has been a code of silence on restraint incidents at the school district.
It certainly seems like the JCPS has a credibility problem with its gross under-reporting of restraint incidents. For the 2014-15 school year the district only reported 174 incidents of restraint and seclusion to the Kentucky Department of Education. In fact, the real number was well over 4,000. Someone is going to have a very difficult time explaining that.
And, I hope it is kept in mind, if the real seriousness of the restraint and seclusion situation in Louisville had been properly reported, perhaps corrective action would have been taken before the 16-year-old student suffered life-threatening double leg fractures.
Certainly, some involved with the case have already reached a personal decision. The Courier reports:
“‘Here’s a kid with both legs broken and nobody saw anything?’ said Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat and member of the panel. ‘This is crazy. This is a cover-up!’”
One last note: The parents of the boy whose legs were broken yanked him out of JCPS schools. They were able to exercise school choice thanks to their damage award. But, what about other kids who are not being well-served, or maybe even worse, by the school system? What choices do they have? Kentucky should have more options so parents don’t have to wait until their child is severely abused, mentally or physically, before they have other options.