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Jefferson Fires 7 Employees After Reports That Preschoolers Were Abused And Neglected

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By Thomas Novelly
The Courier-Journal

One preschooler was flipped off a cot during naptime. A 3-year-old was force-fed by a teacher clutching him between her arms and legs. And another child was put in a closet alone.

In this article from the Courier-Journal, Thomas Novelly says that these are a few of the 23 incidents detailed in a report alleging physical abuse, humiliation, and neglect in Jefferson County Public Schools' Head Start Program, a federally funded initiative to help low-income families prepare children 5 years old and younger for school.

The report from the federal Administration for Children and Families was released in August and gives the school board until Oct. 27 to submit a corrective plan. But JCPS acting Superintendent Marty Pollio said during an education board meeting Tuesday that he started firing employees immediately after learning about the allegations. 

"He has treated the allegations very seriously," JCPS spokeswoman Allison Martin said. "Seven Head Start employees have been let go since August due to allegations in that report." 

All of the teachers and employees fired were mentioned in the report, Martin said. 

The incidents occurred at Zachary Taylor Elementary, George Unseld School, Tully Elementary, Carrithers Middle School, Duvalle Education Center, McFerran Early Childhood Education Center, Laukhuf Elementary School, Wheatley Elementary, Edwards Education Center, Alex R. Kennedy Elementary, Kerrick Elementary and Atkinson Elementary. 

Pollio said at a board meeting Tuesday night that more firings will take place and school protocols will be updated. 

"When it comes to employees and behavior that is improper, there is no tolerance," Pollio said in a statement.

The severity of the alleged abuse varies.

One incident at Zachary Taylor Elementary detailed a parent dropping off a preschool-aged child at school, only to have an assistant yank the child by the arm into class and say, "I'm not putting up with this today," the report states.

At Alex R. Kennedy Elementary in May, one teacher lifted up a preschool-aged child's cot and tipped it so the child would wake up from a nap, causing the child to fall on the ground. The teacher also grabbed another student's cot, dragged it toward her desk and said, "Now you will be quiet," according to the report. 

One 3-year-old boy at Tully Elementary was pouring his milk onto his fruit, the report said. When he wouldn't stop, the teacher scooped the damp fruit off the table, wrapped her arms and legs around the child, and forced him to eat the food. 

In another incident, an anonymous phone call to Child Protective Services prompted an investigation of a teacher at George Unseld School. Investigators found that she abused two 4-year-old children, including threatening them and taking one child "into a closet alone and out of view of the other staff," the report said. 

The teacher was suspended for five days without pay. 

Child Protective Services declined to investigate many of the complaints, but are still reviewing some of them.

Pollio said in a statement that JCPS reported the incidents to the Administration for Children and Families after parents and employees told the principals of their schools.

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