Fayette Schools employee is charged with DUI
This was the headline from a story in the Herald-Leader last Friday. It led a short story about a relatively low-level FCPS employee, a teaching assistant.
This from H-L:
A Fayette County Public Schools employee was arrested and charged with DUI after a crash Friday morning, Lexington police said.
Erica Denise Jackson, 35, was driving a pickup that crashed on Georgetown Street at 12:30 a.m. Friday, authorities said. According to police reports, the pickup hit a utility pole, causing the pole to snap. Jackson and two children who were riding in the pickup escaped serious injury.
Jackson was being held in the Fayette Detention Center on Friday.
Fayette Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Jackson works as a teaching assistant at the Martin Luther King Jr. Academy for Excellence and also is an assistant girls' basketball coach at Henry Clay High School. The school system will conduct its own investigation into the incident, Deffendall said.
The story drew a response from the Fayette County Public Schools Action Committee, not for what it said, but for the Herald-Leader’s failure to report the same offense when the perpetrator was top-level administrator Melodee Parker, back in November of 2011.
An email exchange expressing the committee’s displeasure to Herald-Leader reporter Jim Warren was forwarded to KSN&C by a source within the committee who wishes to remain anonymous.
It would appear that parental activism is on the rise following recent revelations about the Fayette County Public Schools Special Education Department and elsewhere. As Warren wrote on Friday, “It's unclear who or how many critics there are because they haven't made their names public.”
The resourceful committee sent an email to about 150 families with children who will be attending the STEAM School this fall, apparently through the FCPS email distribution list. The committee composed of "parent advocates" who have an "adversarial relationship" with the school district writes at fcpsoversight.org.
In the exchange with the Warren, a committee leader wrote,
On 7/5/13, you reported that a teaching assistant, Erica Denise Jackson, was arrested for DUI. Yet, the Herald Leader failed to report the DUI arrest of Fayette County Public Schools Human Resources Director Melodee Parker (http://theprincipal.blogspot.com/2011/11/fayette-human-resources-director.html).
In doing so you appear to be picking on a very minor employee after giving a major administrator (the one charge with FCPS monitoring personnel behavior no less) a pass. The real story here is that Ms. Parker (see http://www.fcps.net/administration/staff-directory/p/parker-melodee) may end up in charge of investigating the conduct of Ms. Jackson. There may be a bias for or against Ms. Jackson on the part of Ms. Parker based on their common experience.
Also, how did Ms. Parker plea to her DUI charge, was her arrest reported by the superintendent reported to the professional standards board within 30 days as required by law, and was she exonerated or convicted etc?
Generally, the greater the impact a story has, the more newsworthy it is. Events that have an impact on readers, that have real consequences for their lives, are bound to be newsworthy. Usually, if the people involved in a story are prominent, the story becomes more newsworthy. But the Herald-Leader’s choices seem to run to the contrary. Organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) have helped dispel the myth that drunk driving is not a crime. Victims are justifiably upset when news accounts minimize cases of drunk driving that may or may not have harmed others, since the crime always has the potential to claim lives and cause injury.
Now, it just so happens that, within our open records request related to Kathy Dykes, KSN&C also received a copy of Superintendent Tom Shelton’s letter to EPSB regarding Melodee Parker.
The record shows that,
- Superintendent Shelton properly notified EPSB, well within the 30 days
- Parker notified Shelton of her DUI the day after her arrest, having already placed herself in the Employee Assistance program as would be typical for employees without prior offenses
- She informed Shelton of her scheduled court appearance
- Parker expressed remorse and described the drinking incident to the Superintendent, and apparently "threw herself on her sword" to keep her job
- She "volunteered" for a "alcohol diversion education program, generally recommended by the court system."It is unclear if this was additional, or if Parker knew the court was likely to send her there anyway.
- Shelton gave her a private reprimand
KSN&C made no effort to follow up on Parker's court appearance.