How safe is your child’s school?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – On the surface this is a story about numbers. 22 assaults in Oldham County Schools, 452 drug offenses in Bullitt County, and 67 weapons at Jefferson County Public Schools. When you dig a little deeper, it’s a story about kids and it could be your kid.
“Those numbers aren’t good,” JCPS Director of Safe and Drug Free Schools Jackie Wisman said when we asked him about 2013-2014 harassment charges at a couple of Jefferson County Public Middle Schools.
“From weapons to drugs to bullying and assault we’re going to show you how to find out exactly what’s going on in your child’s school. Quite often educators would give the good news, but they wouldn’t give the full news,” Commissioner Terry Holliday from The Kentucky Department of Education said. Holiday says today the whole story is available good or bad.
Detailed information about every public school and district in the Bluegrass State is available on the Kentucky School Report Card. When asked whether some schools were safer than others John Akers from the Kentucky Center for School Safety said “Thats a very difficult question to answer.”
Akers heads up the Kentucky Center for School Safety. He says situations like the Fern Creek High school shooting in September complicate the question of school safety. They were troubling images, no question for parents. But when the I-Team looked through records at Fern Creek we discovered that was the only weapon reported there in 3 years.
“When it occurred the Fern Creek faculty and leadership were well prepared for it, they responded immediately,” JCPS Chief Academic Officer Dewey Hensley said. “Second I want parents to know we’re on this,” Hensley added.
Hensley says JCPS is a School system that reported a reduction in suspensions on the last report card.
There are concerns – like at Iroquois High School where with just 982 students 8 weapons were found on school grounds last year. Another, Thomas Jefferson Middle where based on complaints students had nearly a 45 percent chance of being bullied in the 2013-2014 school year.
Lead Counselor Michelle Sircy says some schools are doing a better job reporting. And that doesn’t necessarily make it a less safe school. “That’s what we’re telling them to do, we want them to report. We want to be involved so we can help solve some of those issues that they’re having,” Sircy said.
“We’re all in this together, you know it’s public school, it’s for everybody,” Jack Wisman added.
Wisman says a safe learning environment is his number one priority. I asked the Director of Safe and Drug Free Schools how the district is handling Crosby Middle. A school that’s gone from 68 to 145 to 536 cases of harassment or bullying in the last three years.
With a child that goes to Crosby Middle I told Wisman I wasn’t okay with those numbers. “No I wouldn’t be either, and I’m sure Crosby isn’t and the other parents at Crosby are probably like you know what can we do to get ahead of this,” Wisman said.
We pointed out to Hensley there were also five weapons reported at Crosby in the 2013-2014 school year. “I understand sir, I agree with you, we’re not OK with those numbers,” Hensley said. The district has sent a consultancy team into Crosby and is working with the assistant superintendent to find out why those numbers have spiked and to stop them.
John Marshall is the Jefferson County’s Chief Equity officer at JCPS “The majority of our students are black, brown and foreign born,” said Marshall. He says JCPS now has a majority minority population with 5095 English as a second language students over 65-hundred limited English students. The difficulty in job is to make sure that all students feel safe as they understand it and know it and it doesn’t impede on or interfere with their learning.
Marshall says the District is training teachers to understand racial, cultural and ethnic differences in students. And the State of Kentucky is promoting an anti-bullying campaign named “Lean on Me” encouraging kids to stand up for each other.
In the end, the numbers are the numbers and your child is your child. Are there schools that should improve? – The answer is yes to that, but I can’t sit here and tell you I can publish a report that says school a is safer than school b – and I just won’t do that,” Jon Akers said.
But as parents we can do that, and the homework is already done.
The reading assignment is the Kentucky School Report Card, click here for more information.