Education

A second report should have been filed in girl's bus assault. That never happened.

The Jackson County School District did not file its annual state-mandated reports on teacher infractions during the years a St. Martin Middle School teacher and bus driver were caught on video assaulting a disabled student.

The Sun Herald reached out to the Mississippi Department of Education and Jackson County School District Superintendent Barry Amacker to find out if the reports were filed.

Amacker confirmed Friday he failed to file the teacher infractions reports the year former St. Martin Middle School special education teacher Kerri Nettles was caught on school bus video assaulting a disabled girl, then 14.

"This appears to have been an oversight on our part, " Amacker said in an email Friday.

The reports, referred to by MDE as Appendix B and Appendix C for the immediate and annual report on teacher infractions, never made it to MDE officials.

The annual report is due in October and the other report is due within 10 days of an alleged infraction. Because the incident with Nettles was never reported, her teaching license expired but was never revoked.

“We have no record of the … report having been filed for the 2014-15 reporting period,” Amacker said Friday.

"We are working with MDE to improve the overall reporting process hopefully to include notification to districts of reporting that is due and notification when reports are received. We are striving to improve in this area. Fortunately, none of the shortcomings of the reporting process to MDE resulted in a negative impact on the ultimate outcome of this particular case.”

A school bus surveillance video captured Nettles yelling at the child, threatening to put her off the bus to walk home during a field trip and stuffing a towel in the child's mouth to get her to shut up and stop moving around.

Nettles pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and was fined $3,000 and given a 30-day suspended prison sentence.

The video shows the driver, Antioinette Jane Raymond, threatening to take the child to jail, choke her and kill her later sitting on top of the child to keep her quiet.

Special Prosecutor Mark Watts said Raymond is set to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges in the case in July. A grand jury indicted her on charges of simple assault and contributing to the delinquency, neglect or abuse of a child.

A parent takes action

Holly Fedele, the mother of a special needs student, has been outspoken about Amacker's failure to report the incidents to MDE.

She also served as representative for more than 1,000 other parents when she addressed the school board to call for Amacker's firing for failing to file the required reports to MDE. She also filed her own public information request about the reports.

Amacker consistently points to the fact that as soon as the crimes were discovered, the school district reported it to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office for investigation and fired Nettles and Raymond.

He and others also have suggested the media has tried to cover up the fact that as soon as officials learned of the videos, he and Sheriff Mike Ezell advised the media of the firings as well as released information about an investigation into possible misconduct.

The Sun Herald reported on the firings at the time, though who was fired and what their positions were was never released. In addition, what happened and whether anyone was charged in the case was never made public.

“There seems to be some confusion over what we parents are angry over,” Fedele said. “We appreciate Amacker reporting to authorities. No one is disputing that he did that. What we are angry over is that it appears he did not send the required documents to MDE not once, but twice.”

She still has questions for Amacker.

“Was this not an extremely important document to him?” she said. “How does one raise the standard by doing only the bare minimum?”

Margaret Baker 228-896-0538, margar45
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