Jackson County schools did not report mistreatment of disabled student, MDE says

The Jackson County School District did not report a teacher's mistreatment of a special education student to the Mississippi Department of Education, the state agency said Thursday.

"The Mississippi Department of Education takes seriously any unethical conduct by educators or administrators," MDE spokesperson Patrice Guilfoyle said Thursday. "Superintendents are required to report certain allegations, infractions and violations. Upon notification, the MDE opens a case on the educator. The MDE has no records showing that Jackson County School District reported this incident.”

On Thursday, the Sun Herald broke a story that included surveillance video of St. Martin Middle School special education teacher, Kerri Anne Nettles, stuffing a towel in a disabled girl's mouth to get her to quiet down and stop moving around in her seat on a bus.

The footage, both from incidents in 2014 and 2015, also captured bus driver Antioinette Jane Raymond threatening to take the girl to jail or even kill her, and sitting on top of her to get the student to stop moving.

MDE has authority over certified personnel, such as teachers, but bus drivers are not among certified personnel.

The video of the student's assault has sparked outrage among parents of other special eduction students.

It also prompted a reaction from the American Civil Liberties Union.

"The video recently released by the attorney representing the student is disturbing to say the least," said Jennifer Riley Collins, executive director of the Mississippi chapter of ACLU. "However, this incident is not an isolated one, but is part of a larger issue across the state."

According to Collins, disabled students are six times more likely to face physical restraint in school compared to students without disabilities. Students of color are twice as likely to be restrained or secluded. Any such act of restraint or seclusion, she said, is a "violation of their rights to non-discrimination."

"Mississippi must do more to ensure protection of our children, especially our most vulnerable children, by passing legislation inclusive of proper implementation and accountability provisions that keeps our students safe," Collins said.

This month, Nettles pleaded no contest to two counts of contributing to the neglect of a child and simple assault. A judge fined her $3,000 and gave her a 30-day suspended jail sentence.

Raymond's criminal case is pending.

Check back with the Sun Herald for updates to this story, including reaction from parents of other special education students in the school system.

Margaret Baker 228-896-0538, margar45
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