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Kentucky Department of Education to conduct management audit of JCPS

Published: Feb. 14, 2017 at 5:51 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 14, 2017 at 7:36 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Kentucky Department of Education has announced it will conduct a management audit of Jefferson County Public Schools. The results of the top-to-bottom audit could lead to a state takeover of JCPS.

KDE began a management review of JCPS in July, 2016, after finding 32 serious issues at JCPS. More than half of them had to do with how the district conducts and documents the use of physical restraints and seclusions of students.

"The review actually started originally around restraint seclusion, we were also typically looking for that a little bit more as well," Commissioner of Education Dr. Stephen Pruitt said.

"When you review the deficiencies found by KDE, you will note that 16 of the 22 involved seclusions and restraints," JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens said.  "This is an issue that JCPS found and self-reported in March to KDE. The first actions we took were to work alongside KDE to clean up our current data files and to shut down our internal database. Since that time, we've only had one reporting system – Infinite Campus."

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Brennan Long's parents know all about restraints and seclusions. Both of Brennan's femurs were broken in multiple places in November 2014 --  after a teachers aide reportedly used a restraint on him at the Binet School.

It's cases like Brennan's that are alarming for the state.

"The issue of student safety, issue of being frustrated about sometimes not being able to get to the bottom of some of the issues that we keep hearing about," Pruitt said.

Other deficiencies found in the review include bullying, sexual assault on buses, data discrepancies, disproportionate punishments to certain groups of students, and teachers who were afraid to speak up fearing reprisal from the administration.

The finding seemed surprising to Dr. Hargens.

"Frankly, reading the majority of this audit feels like stepping back in time," Hargens said. "It does not acknowledge the work the district has done and continues to do."

Pruitt added that he understands this type of process can be demoralizing to staff but, it's about making the district safer for students.

"My hope that Jefferson County is going to be an open door and work with us and help us get to the bottom of some of these things," Pruitt said. "So, that when we get into the audit and have a plan for how we are going to address those issues to ensure each child has that quality of educational experience."

As part of the review, onsite reviews at several JCPS locations were conducted by KDE.

WATCH: Maira Ansari's report

The department also reviewed media reports, teacher discussions and data associated with the disproportionality rates of discipline in students with disabilities, KDE said.

KDE's audit will be conducted over the next few months. The department's team will be onsite for at least 10-14 days during the audit. Findings of the audit are not expected to be released until after the completion of the current school year.

Dr. Hargens says they will work proactively with the Kentucky Department of Education.

Commissioner Pruitt added that he does believe the district has some excellent educators and schools.

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