For Immediate Release: Friday, June 1, 2018
(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — The Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government is appalled at recent accounts of more than 40 abuse cases in the Jefferson County Public Schools’ troubled Head Start program during the past 18 months and is calling on Superintendent Marty Pollio and the JCPS Board of Education to immediately release all information regarding the district’s failure to stem claims of physical abuse of pre-K children.
Two of the newest cases were filed in May, the same month JCPS gave up its $15 million federal Head Start grant in order to avoid the scrutiny and requirements which accompany those dollars.
These newest reports of abuse weren’t even addressed at Tuesday’s board meeting but instead surfaced when Insider Louisville reported that a parent said “one of the program’s classified instructors grabbed their child so hard it left three fingerprints above the student’s wrist on May 18,” and that another claimed three days later that an instructional assistant “swatted a student’s head, causing the student to hit her head on furniture and bruise her lip.”
“JCPS administrators and board members have been unacceptably silent regarding why the reported abuse of 3- and 4-year-old children continues to happen on their watch,” Bluegrass Institute president and CEO Jim Waters said. “This culture of secrecy in failing to update the public on these most-recent complaints, as well as the school board’s refusal to address this situation must end. Anything less than full transparency and corrective action is entirely unacceptable.”
Instead of working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to change this systemic culture of apparent abuse, JCPS has chosen to shirk federal oversight and millions of dollars in funding in order to be even less transparent with the public than before.
“This voluntary reduction of federal funding comes at a time the achievement gap between white and black students in JCPS is widening,” Waters said. “With all of this talk about needing more funding, it just doesn’t make sense that JCPS would give up millions of dollars for an entire federal program, unless there’s something they want to get ahead of, or, even worse, hide.”
The Center for Open Government believes the public deserves to know if a publicly-funded organization is complicit in creating a culture of abuse – especially one involving pre-K students.
With a potentially heightened burden on taxpayers created by dissolution of the JCPS Head Start program, less transparency by school administrators is even more unacceptable.
The public deserves answers on why this apparent abuse has become so systemic in JCPS, immediate action to protect the health, safety and lives of our youngest and most vulnerable Kentuckians and policies to ensure such ill-treatment of these children never happens again – especially considering the district is planning on expanding other existing pre-K programs to serve youngsters who might lose out with the district’s decision to forego the federal grant.
“If this is the type of program that JCPS is running with outside oversight, it’s difficult to imagine how this district’s leadership can be trusted to run any program without it,” Waters added. “The fact that the urgency we currently see on the part of JCPS is focused almost entirely on how to give up outside funding while saving the jobs of the adults who ran the district’s failed Head Start system is par for the course with this failed district – putting the needs of the adults ahead of those of the children, even the youngest of them.”
For more information, please contact Jim Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 270.320.4376.