I cannot decide if Donna Hargens, the superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, is the Wizard of Oz, the captain of the Titanic, or the poster child for the "Peter Principle".
And is the JCPS Board of Education, led by David Jones Jr., the residents of the Land of Oz, the crew on the Titanic, or just plain Kool-Aid drinkers at Jonestown?For Hargens to state, and the JCPS board to agree, that there is "no crisis" at JCPS schools is the most bizarre and frightening denial of reality.Worse, Hargens and the JCPS board are trying to downplay the escalating epidemic of violence in our schools. And even more shameful is how JCPS rebuffs all the hundreds of victims in these JCPS schools who are forced to face their attackers each and every day.Hargens' dismissive statement that "only 3 percent of JCPS students have been cited for fighting" is, by her calculations, about 3,500 children. That figure alone would have alarmed the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and its definition of an epidemic, which would force the shutdown of all JCPS schools. (And that could be a really good idea to fire all the administrators and start fresh with qualified people who put educating our children before their own agendas.)Tragically Hargens and the JCPS board refuse to understand the environment of bullying and violence. What they proclaim is 3 percent is, in fact, one in seven children in grades K-12, per national statistics. That puts a more realistic number of JCPS children who are being bullied well over 14,000, and this does not take into account all the teachers who are being attacked by students.Along with the hundreds of student bullying phone calls my office receives, I am getting more calls than ever before from teachers in regard to their safety.If this kind of violence would happen outside of JCPS, the perpetrator would be arrested and an Emergency Restraining Order would be issued.Why hasn't the rising number of children being rushed to emergency rooms from bullying violence in our schools set off any alarm bells with Hargens and the JCPS board?
Hargens says "no crisis" in JCPS schoolsHere is the progression of this reality: sexual assaults are becoming rapes, minor injuries are becoming broken bones, and minor hospital runs are becoming extended hospital stays. My guess is that when a child is murdered in a JCPS school, Hargens and the JCPS board will just brush off that incident as well.The parents, teachers and students of JCPS have had enough of the ongoing classroom discipline problems where one or two students disrupt the entire educational setting for the other children in the classroom.The change in policy must start from the top. Hargens and the JCPS board must acknowledge that the current methods of modifying bullying behavior are not working. The safety of our teachers and students need to become paramount, and not the lip service from Hargens.All students and teachers must feel safe at their schools. This existing cycle of fear that many of our students and teachers have riding the bus or walking the halls between classes must end. We, as parents, teachers, government officials and ordinary citizens, must never tolerate or trivialize violence in our schools.The epidemic of violence is so pervasive that I can no longer help all the children who suffer every day in this atmosphere of emotional terror and abuse. But JCPS does have the ability and the resources to stop this violence. I urge all the parents, students and teachers to speak out and demand a safe school experience.
Teddy Gordon is a Louisville attorney who has tried numerous education cases, including winning the U.S. Supreme Court case that ended the use of race as the sole factor of deciding student admittance to various schools.