The Courier-Journal is reporting that the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS) very seriously under-reported the number of incidents where students were restrained or secluded in its schools last year. The Courier says this data is required to be reported by state regulation.
Making things more uncomfortable, the article says that the Kentucky Department of Education asked for confirmation of the tremendously low numbers JCPS provided, apparently after JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens knew there was a major problem with the reported figures. Never the less, she did not correct this massive error.
Hargens blames the problem on the use of two different database systems in JCPS, but I have to ask why two separate, overlapping systems are in use in the district. Does this point to inefficient management? Is that second system in use to obscure the true picture about whatever data is being collected?
For sure, the “Learning Environment” – “Safety” section of the current 2014-15 Kentucky School Report Card for JCPS shows a total of only 168 restraint cases and just six seclusion cases were reported to the department of education for that school term, a total of only 174 cases, just as the Courier reports. The Courier says the correct number is over 4,000 cases.
If the rest of Courier reporter Allison Ross’ story is confirmed, some very pointed questions need to be asked about whether the serious and possibly knowing under-reporting of data required by state regulation rises to the level where action must be taken.
After all, if the Kentucky Department of Education does not protect the accuracy of the data it is required to collect, then the department will start to share in the JCPS’ problems. And, if such grossly inaccurate data were knowingly confirmed by JCPS, that would be a very serious issue indeed.