Education

Jefferson County Public Schools is being put under “management review” by the Kentucky Department of Education in response to concerns the district underreported or failed to report incidents of student restraint and seclusion.

The commissioner of the state’s education department, Stephen Pruitt, sent a letter to Jefferson County Superintendent Donna Hargens Wednesday informing her of the review.

“I have determined that the restraint and seclusion data issue is a significant deficiency within the district,” Pruitt wrote.

Pruitt said he will dispatch KDE staffers to conduct a complete review of district practices related to student restraint and seclusion. The review will also include “a broader investigation of district practices.”

“If the management review indicates the presence of critically ineffective or inefficient management, a full management audit will be conducted,” Pruitt added.

Such an audit could lead to “state assistance or state management of the district,” he wrote.

The Courier Journal reported earlier this year that the school district was aware of underreported numbers regarding student restraint and seclusion. The issue stems from the use of a separate data system used by the district, the newspaper reported.

And Pruitt repeated that in his letter this week.

He said the district’s use of the separate system “has frustrated the use of data to inform local efforts and has masked issues at the local level that are ripe for state assistance and public scrutiny.”

Pruitt noted district use of the state data collection system could result in “cost savings to Kentucky taxpayers” and could “eliminate the potential for two disparate data sets for the same information.”

In a response, Hargens sent a note to district employees acknowledging the letter from Pruitt.

“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,” she said in the statement.

Click the link below to read the Kentucky Department of Education’s letter to JCPS.

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Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.