Editorials

Parents shouldn't have to worry about their kids at school. In Jackson County they do

The response of Jackson County School District officials to a video that clearly shows a special needs student being abused by a teacher and driver on a school bus has been, at best, inadequate.

Superintendent Barry Amacker, his underlings and the members of the Jackson County School Board have failed the children of the district and their parents. They have violated the trust placed in them by every parent who sends a child to school expecting that child will learn in a safe environment.

Parents are properly outraged. Too many Jackson County parents knew nothing of the abuse until Sun Herald reporter Margaret Baker uncovered it.

The Mississippi Department of Education said it did not receive a report of the abuse as required by law.

We see a pattern developing here — a pattern continuing to develop with an attempt to muzzle the parents.

They want to speak to the board. But Amaker said they didn't follow school district policy, which says, in part, that "every attempt should be made to resolve the problem(s) at the lowest level."

Under normal circumstances, we would agree that not every problem or dispute should be brought to the board.

These are no ordinary circumstances.

It is clear from the comments made by Jackson County School District parents and the petition they've started to pressure the board to remove Amacker that trust in the district is slipping away.

Board members Kenneth A. Fountain, Troy E. Frisbie, Glenn A. Dickerson, J. Keith Lee, and Amy M. Dobson should give parents a chance to speak their minds. They should listen to their concerns, then do all that they can to convince them they've been heard, the problem has been recognized, and they will do whatever it takes to try to prevent a recurrence.

When it comes to children, Mississippi perennially turns up on the "worst" end of state rankings. Its care for foster children was in shambles until a federal court stepped in and demanded improvements.

And, as Baker reported, Mississippi's law governing treatment of special needs kids is weak.

Parents have every right to demand change. And they have every right to demand the school district listen.

We hope school officials reverse course and allow all parents to speak in an orderly fashion. It will be tough for the board to listen but listen they must. They must feel these parents' pain.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.
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