Louisville, KY – Shortly after schools in Jefferson County, KY reopened at full capacity on August 11, during a time when COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are surging, reports of school fights also started making the rounds. Sure, there are fights every year, but this year, they seem worse. And they seem to follow a pattern.
Here are a few examples:
#1 – ANGRY WHITE TEACHER PINS DOWN BLACK STUDENT AT MOORE HIGH SCHOOL
On Monday, August 23, there was an incident at Moore High school. A white teacher used his body to pin down a Black student after back and forth erupted after he objected to the mask he was wearing. By the end of the incident, other adults had to step in to pry his fingers loose from the student’s locks (shown).
A former JCPS principal, a Black woman named Michelle Pennix, livestreamed on her Facebook page about “four incidents in four days at four different high schools.” She raised a lot of great issues that echo what we’ve been saying for years. “We knew this would happen!” “What did we expect?” “We weren’t ready.” “Where is restorative justice for these kids?” “Have we found out what happened and why?” Please watch the video.
Shortly after the incident, images started circulating on social media about the science teacher’s past, his previous teaching jobs in other districts, abuse of family members, and a mysterious transfer from a more “magnetic” JCPS school, just days into the new school year. WTF JCPS?
Meanwhile, more information about the teacher at Moore has come to light, indicating he should have never been hired to work with children in the first place:
WAVE 3 interview with the student:
Embattled JCPS teacher now under investigation was previously reprimanded for ‘angry’ response to a student (wave3.com)
Did these violent incidents escape the HR department’s screening process? Or were they considered by someone involved in the hiring decision as “acceptable?” But that’s not all!
From the latest article in today’s Courier-Journal, “It is unclear if JCPS knew of the previous issues of misconduct when Bennett was hired to teach at Male High School in 2019. He transferred to Moore for the 2020-21 school year.” We learned today that the Moore principal is also from Etown, and in fact, still lives there. Did they know each other from Etown, before he was transferred to Moore? Did anyone involved in his hiring or supervision know about his history and turn a blind eye?
When the story of the altercation at Moore first broke on social media, our Dear JCPS Private Facebook group was abuzz with shared posts and comments from parents who heard about the incident and were calling down to the school demanding this teacher be held accountable. Word quickly came back that the principal’s response was something along the lines of “it’s been taken care of.” No further discussion, we should just take her word for it, I guess.
The public deserves answers, and there needs to be a full investigation into the district’s hiring, promotion/demotion and transfer processes, and whether there was any conflict of interest involved.
#2 BLACK BULLYING VICTIM REACHES FOR PELLET GUN AT PRP HIGH SCHOOL AFTER ADULTS FAIL TO KEEP HIM SAFE
On Wednesday, August 18, there was an incident at Pleasure Ridge Park high school involving a student who had repeatedly been bullied. Videos taken by other students show him being punched under a table in a cafeteria or gym with no adults in sight. At one point, the victim is pulled out from under the table and according to witnesses on social media, he allegedly said something along the lines of, “where’s my gun,” before reaching into his backpack. You can see on the video, students clearing the area. News reports even told of some students climbing out school windows and running down Dixie Highway to escape the perceived threat. It was later discovered that the student had been carrying a pellet gun for protection from his bully. More on the incident can be found here:
#3 – BLACK FEMALE STUDENT UNABLE TO DEFEND HERSELF AFTER BEING JUMPED AT FERN CREEK HIGH SCHOOL
In a related news article, we also learned about another student who required stitches after an incident at Fern Creek High School left a 3-4 inch gash in her forehead. Her mother, who is also Black, said her daughter was jumped by a group of girls and was unable to defend herself because the teacher was holding her back her arms. Some video footage of that incident can be seen in this article.
2 violent JCPS school fights have parents, community members upset (wlky.com)
Not much more has been reported about this incident, but we hope that it does not get lost amid all of the increased tensions, distractions, and temper tantrums related to trying to keep our children safe while our schools are forced to reopen at full capacity, while the pandemic is simultaneously reaching all-time highs in our community.
#4 – BLACK FEMALE 5 YEAR OLD STUDENT ASSAULTED ON BUS, PLEAS IGNORED BY ADULTS
On the same day of the Moore High School incident, a white boy continued to bully a Black female student on the St. Matthews Elementary bus, this time giving her a black eye. Here’s a plea from her father.
What do these incidents have in common? I’ll let you figure that out.
These situations are not new. But what they are is new to some people who are finally paying attention. These incidents represent a pattern or practice of sweeping problems under the rug, failing to implement restorative practices, over-policing of our Black and brown students, failing to diagnose and address learning disabilities, trauma, and impacts of poverty, and so much more. Societal issues will continue to spill up into communities that had been previously unaffected. Unless we address them, while there’s still time, no one will be left unharmed.
What are we doing to keep our most vulnerable children safe, especially our Black and brown students? How can we punish them for responding “unfavorably” to situations that we forced them to be subjected to, and have not provided support when they and their caregivers have repeatedly asked for it? What are the district’s hiring practices, have they been run through the district’s Racial Equity Analysis Protocol or “REAP,” and what is being done to identify, weed out dangerous, violent and racist teachers from JCPS? Is there a mechanism to report or flag them for interventions before situations like this arise? The answer is no, and we will delve into that more deeply over coming weeks and months.
As Ms. Pennix states, there are no bad kids. There are good kids who just sometimes do bad things. No child is expendable. But it would seem we’ve written some of them off before they ever had a chance. And since JCPS is more than 50% non-white, things must change now.
Below is some additional footage of the Moore High School incident.
This story will be updated. If you have additional information you think we should know about, you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.