Jackson County

The MDE launched a probe against Jackson County superintendent. But there's a problem.

The Mississippi Department of Education has no authority to take action against the Jackson County School District superintendent for failure to report a teacher's assault on a disabled student, MDE officials told the Sun Herald.

That's because it happened just before a law change took effect on April 22, 2015, said MDE spokesperson Patrice Guilfoyle.

The Sun Herald first broke the story on April 26 of a school bus surveillance video showing the mistreatment of a then-14-year-old St. Martin Middle School student by a special education teacher and bus driver in the 2014-15 school year.

Just this week, MDE determined it "is without jurisdiction to pursue licensure action,” against Superintendent Barry Amacker, Guilfoyle said.

For years, the report of teacher misconduct to MDE has been required by law, but no action resulted from a failure to report incidents.

In early 2015, state legislators passed a law to give MDE and the state Licensure Commission the authority to revoke, suspend, refuse to renew or place on probation certified teachers for infractions and to impose punitive action against superintendents who fail to file state-mandated reports on alleged misconduct by licensed educators.

“The MDE strongly believes that all school personnel who have the responsibility to protect children in their care should report any violations of that trust to the agency, and thanks to the Legislature we now have the authority to take punitive action in cases that were not reported,” Guilfoyle said.

State law requires school superintendents to report teacher infractions to MDE within 10 days of learning of an allegation.

In this case, Amacker has admitted he failed to report the assault after school officials found surveillance video.

Margaret Baker 228-896-0538, margar45
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