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State to review JCPS management due to issues in reporting of restraints

Published: Jul. 20, 2016 at 9:26 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2016 at 10:08 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The state education department will conduct an on-site review of the management practices of Jefferson County Public Schools, saying the district's incomplete reporting of instances of restraint and seclusion is a "significant deficiency."

In a letter sent Wednesday, the state education commissioner, Stephen Pruitt, informed JCPS that his department will review the district's restraint reporting practices and its management. He cited ongoing reporting issues and a complaint sent to the department alleging that the district might be using improper training techniques regarding restraints.

[READ: Letter from Kentucky Department of Education to JCPS superintendent announcing management review]

Donna Hargens, superintendent of JCPS, says the district has been transparent regarding its issues with restraint reporting and it welcomes the state's support."I also welcome the department's management review of our district, which will help us continuously improve and continue focusing on putting the children of Jefferson County first," she said in an email statement.

The announcement of the review comes days after an outside panel determined that a student was abused at the Binet School for Children with Learning Disabilities in 2014. Brennan Long, who has autism, suffered life-threatening injuries after being placed into a "cradle assist." He had fractures in both legs and couldn't walk for more than a month. Three other investigations into the incident - by JCPS, the Louisville Metro Police Department, and Child Protective Services - closed with inconclusive findings, but the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel said police should consider reopening their investigation. Long's family received $1.75 million from the district in a settlement.

Long's father, Brian Long, told WAVE 3 News in a prepared statement that the review could lead to necessary changes if JCPS leaders are committed to doing the right thing, but "this is is just something Brennan, Kim and I have not witnessed by the leadership of this school district to this point."

The district admitted earlier this year that its internal system for reporting instances of restraint and seclusion was not properly reporting numbers to the state. For the 2014-1015 year, it reported 174 seclusions or restraints, far below the actual number, which was more than 4,400.

The district said a technical error meant that the numbers reported to the state were inaccurate, but that the correct numbers were reported to the federal government.

An audit of the data found the discrepancy was caused by the fact that the data must entered into two different systems - JCPS's internal system and the state's Kentucky Student Information System. The education department said the use of two systems obscured issues from public scrutiny and the district's continued problems with reporting "need to be put to rest."

Staff from the Kentucky Department of Education have been ordered to specifically focus on the restraint and seclusion issue in addition to a broader review of management practices. If the management review finds "critically ineffective or inefficient management," a full management audit will conducted, which could ultimately allow the state to take control of the district.

Copyright 2016 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

The statement from Donna Hargens, JCPS superintendent, is reproduced in its entirety below:

Today we received communication from the Kentucky Department of Education that it will be reviewing seclusion and restraint data from the district and assisting the district in developing systems to ensure accurate reporting. 

From the beginning, JCPS has been transparent regarding this issue, and welcomes the state's support, guidance and insight about how our district can improve data reporting.  I also welcome the department's management review of our district, which will help us continuously improve and continue focusing on putting the children of Jefferson County first."

The statement from Brian Long, father of the student injured at the Binet School, is reproduced in its entirety below:

"Kim and are pleased to see the KY DOE take a significant step to further understand the opportunities in JCPS relative to their use of Restraint and Seclusion.  We are hopeful that this review will be thorough, extensive and will shed light on the truth relative to JCPSs culture and compliance versus the KY law on Restraint and Seclusion.  We are also encouraged that the KY DOE is placing emphasis on the implementation of positive behavioral interventions and supports before restraints are applied – something that did not happen effectively and ultimately led to Brennan's near-fatal injuries.  So, this is a chance for everyone to work together to get to the truth and make the necessary changes that can really help our special needs children in this county – however, the effort will only be successful with purposeful leadership and a willing team that is committed to do the right thing – and, this is just something that Brennan, Kim and I have not witnessed by the leadership of this school district to this point."