In response to an assault on a disabled student that went unreported to state officials, the Jackson County's Board of Education has made changes to its policies to ensure any future incidents do not go unreported, Board President Ken Fountain said.
“In light of the circumstances and reporting surrounding the recently released video of a special needs students, the Jackson County School District initiated an aggressive review of all district policy to do everything possible, policy wise, to prevent anything like the incident at issue from ever happening again,” the JCSD said in a statement.
The Sun Herald broke the story on the assault of the St. Martin special education student that resulted in criminal charges against a teacher and bus driver. The crimes occurred in the 2014-15 school year.
The state Department of Education had no report on the incident despite a state law that requires school superintendents to report teacher infractions.
Though Superintendent Barry Amacker claims he had someone mail in the report, he had no copy of the report to confirm the information.
"I can tell you the Board was not happy that we can't put that document" at MDE, Fountain said. "Not pleased at all."
Outraged parents who didn't know of the assault until the Sun Herald report have called for Amacker's firing, but he said he has no plans to leave.
No reports for five years
The Sun Herald filed a public records request with MDE to receive the annual summary of teacher infraction reports submitted by the Jackson County School District and other Coast districts over a five-year period beginning in 2013.
MDE, however, said it could not provide the reports because none had been submitted by any Coast district over that five-year period.
The Sun Herald has since requested the individual infraction reports over those years for Jackson County and the Coast districts.
Brown wants parents to know the school board heard them and is taking every possible action too ensure there are no other similar incidents that go unreported.
The policy changes the board is making address the review of surveillance video, such as the video of the St. Martin special education student's assault.
Other policy changes deal with the reporting of suspected child abuse and violent acts, the protocol to review surveillance videos at schools and on buses, and the reporting duties of principals who suspect child abuse.
A closer look
The Sun Herald reviewed the policy changes and the new proposed policies, which won't take effect until 30 days after it's passed.
Two of the new policies will be up for vote at the next school board meeting in July.
Here's a closer look at the policy revision and the new proposed policies:
- Video surveillance: Only “relevant” school personnel and administrators will be able to review videos to identify a problem and work to rectify it. Anyone who does the review must sign a written log to document the review and why it was needed. Those who do review the videos are prohibited from making copies of the footage or disclosing any information about what happened without the “specific” permission of the superintendent.
- Violent acts: When violent acts — such an physical or sexual violations, murder, kidnapping or other violent acts — are suspected between students on any school property, employees are to make verbal and written reports to the principals, or Child Protective Services, as needed. In the addition, the principals are required to report such incidents to law enforcement, if necessary, and a written report must be submitted to the state Department of Education within 24 hours of a violent act.
- Child abuse: All school personnel must report any suspected child abuse or neglect to the state Department of Protective Services, by phone, online or in person. In addition, suspected abuse cases must be reported to the superintendent. The school district must allow CPS to have an in-person conference with the child allegedly abused. The requirement that the principal "write down pertinent information for documentation purposes" and make a written report was removed.
- Mandatory reporting: The superintendent is required to file the state-mandated annual report on certified or licensed employees for infractions no later than Oct. 1. In addition, teacher infractions by license-holders must be reported to MDE within 10 days of an alleged violation.
The amended policy will take effect when the board meets in July and approves the minutes of the June meeting, when the board voted in favor of the amended policies.
Parents say they are still outraged over what the School Board is doing because no steps have been by the school district to become more transparent about what is happening in the schools.