You recently reported the filing of a lawsuit against Perry School Board of Education which named as defendants Perry school board members John Combs, Jerry Wayne Stacy, Debbie Hignite, Superintendent Jett, former principal and current athletic director Eddie Browning along with others, the plaintiff being an unnamed 7-year-old who was allegedly sexually abused, exploited, bullied, intimidated, psychologically abused, and harassed over a 2-year period of time by an older student. Defendants are accused of receiving multiple reports of the abuse over a protracted period of time, “acting with deliberate indifference” to the rights of that student, and “failing to take steps to end such abuse, including failing to report, and taking no remedial action.”
Bearing in mind all defendants in all lawsuits are entitled to their day in court, most incredibly damning are the charges leveled against the entire board that they acted with “deliberate indifference” by “failing to take any steps to end such abuse, including failing to report … and took … no remedial action.” Likewise, then-principal and now district athletic director Eddie Browning is also facing the same accusation. The report also indicates that the perpetrator pleaded guilty in January to two felony counts of sexual abuse due to mental illness, removing all doubt regarding foundation of the claim. School personnel having knowledge, including reports of, are required by law to report such student behavior and student jeopardy.
Your report also indicates that you requested a response from Superintendent Jett who referred you to school board attorney Mike Schmitt, who did no return your call. To the board I would say, the board attorney was not elected to see to the welfare of the children. Each of you were. So, at this point we have a student pleading guilty to charges that triggered the above claims, and a superintendent refusing comment and announcing all school employees to be on lockdown regarding any commentary about the issue. Objectively spoken, the “circle the wagons, mum’s the word” stance does nothing to reassure parents who want their children educated, but above all else to be protected from harm. It does seem that the first order of business would be sincere, humble, concerned communication between the board, superintendent Jett, and parents across the district in an effort to assure parents that the children are indeed safe in the school environment.
Additionally, any school board member who may be privy to such report has easy access to this newspaper, which is in the business of reporting local news and opinions. I am confident anyone expressing such concern will be given an audience. I have found this editorial page to be very receptive to school concerns. I see no commentary from any board member, which, to say the least, is disquieting.
In closing, Chairman Combs, completing 40 years (10 terms) on the board this year, in order to remain on the board, must stand for reelection this year. Another member, Jerry Stacy, not halfway through a second term, is seeking to leave the board for a position on the Perry County Fiscal Court. Debbie Hignite, reelected for a third term. These are the individuals put in place to see to the safeguarding of the children. Their records are etched in stone. To the newcomers on the board, Mr. Moscrip and Ms. Gabbard, I would say, for the sake of the children, have an independent opinion and a strong voice. Be heard. If you are in the minority, a quiet “no” vote accomplishes little. If it’s wrong, make your concerns heard if it means standing on the conference-room table. You will someday be remembered as part of the solution or part of the problem. You will leave the board, either highly respected, or shamed and disgraced that you allowed yourselves to be used for the wrong purposes. There will be no middle ground. It has been proven time and again.
Eddie N. Campbell,
Lost Creek, Ky.