Were Head Start preschoolers the only ones abused?
Residents in Jefferson County would have to be living in a vacuum to not know about the major dispute that has arisen over abuse of children in the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS)-run Head Start preschool program. The abuse findings, the failure to fix those problems and the district’s recent vote to return the federal $15 million grant that funds the program have been covered in the area’s media outlets such as articles here, here and here, to cite only a very few examples.
But, we’ve discovered a puzzling situation.
While the news reports have consistently only mentioned abuse to Head Start children, we recently got a tip that the Jefferson County Head Start students had been getting services in the same classrooms as other preschool students enrolled in the separate, state-funded preschool program. Can it be that only the Head Start preschoolers faced issues in those “blended” classrooms?
“Blending” of Head Start and state-funded preschool children was confirmed when we found the “Jefferson County Public Schools Early Childhood Programs Head Start and Early Head Start 2018-2019 Continuation Application Narrative” document. This is listed under the “Continuation Application Narrative 2018-19” item in the materials from the JCPS Board’s March 27, 2018 meeting.
Page 2 in this application says:
“For the 2018-2019 program year, we will restructure our Head Start and state-funded preschool program classrooms. Previously, we blended these programs and served Head Start and state-funded preschool students in the same classrooms. We propose to separate these programs and return to Head Start-only classrooms.”
Reading this, it seems clear that up through the current 2017-2018 school year, Head Start students and state-funded preschool students were housed together in the same classrooms.
Furthermore, the federal government identified around 40 incidents of abuse and neglect involving JCPS Head Start students in the past year alone according to the latest federal report. That’s a fair number of cases.
Note: find the latest, 2018 federal report by clicking here and then clicking on the “Retrieve Reports” button to reveal a link to the “2018 – Follow Up [PDF, 4.4MB]” link to the report.
But, here is the mystery: So far there have been no reports in the media of any problems for kids enrolled in the state-funded preschool program. All the coverage has indicated that somehow the abuse situation only pertained to the Head Start program.
Does it seem likely that somehow Head Start kids faced all these abuse incidents in just one year while not a single child in the same classrooms from the state-funded program had any issues?
Another piece of now public information bears on this puzzle. On May 31, 2018 WDRB’s web site reported “JCPS quietly paying pricey bullying settlements with taxpayer money.” While the article talks about bullying in the K to 12 system only, if the district has been quietly paying out what could be considered “hush money” to K to 12 students, could there be similar goings on with JCPS preschool students, as well?
Furthermore, could it be that some state-funded preschool student abuse cases are included among the 40 cases documented by the federal investigations? With blended classrooms, that also seems possible.
Thus, a lack of public reporting (so far, at least) does not remove concerns that there could also be abuse problems with the state-funded JCPS preschool program.
The issue of possible abuse cases in the JCPS state-funded preschool program gets is important because while JCPS is now out of the Head Start management business, the district remains fully in charge of the separate, state-funded preschool program. If, in fact, there is also abuse in that state-funded preschool program, then more needs to happen.
So, an important, unsolved puzzle remains: How did JCPS serve both Head Start and state-funded preschool students in the same classrooms but somehow we are only hearing about abuse problems with the Head Start kids? And, is anyone in authority checking on this?