2 JCPS staffers suspended for hurting students

Allison Ross

Two Jefferson County Public Schools staff members have received unpaid suspensions following reviews of their past interactions with students – the latest outcomes of a district initiative to take another look at past investigations where students were injured by employees.

In-school security monitor Paul Jarrell is back at work at King Elementary following his unpaid suspension from Nov. 28 through Dec. 2, a JCPS spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

According to a letter from the district notifying him of his suspension, Jarrell was disciplined over a previous JCPS investigation that found a student at the now-shuttered Kennedy Metropolitan Middle School suffered multiple bruises and muscle strain after being improperly restrained by Jarrell.

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That past investigation concluded that Jarrell – who at the time did not have a restraint and seclusion certification known as Safe Crisis Management certification – grabbed the student by the back of the neck and the back waist of his pants.

The investigation also noted that several witnesses said that Jarrell held the student on the ground with his knee in the student's back. That would be an apparent violation of Kentucky regulations banning the use of prone restraint in schools.

"No matter what school, no matter what circumstance, nothing justifies violence or assault," JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens wrote in Jarrell's disciplinary notice, adding that "excessive force will not be tolerated."

Meanwhile, elementary teacher Rhonda Swann has been moved from Hawthorne Elementary to Bloom Elementary following her five-day unpaid suspension.

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Her disciplinary letter laid out three past incidents, including a 2011 incident where Swann grabbed a student's arm and yanked him, and a 2015 investigation that substantiated that Swann had left scratch marks after grabbing a student. In both those incidents, Swann originally received a written reprimand.

The letter also notes a 2016 investigation that did not substantiate an allegation that Swann had slapped a student's glasses from his face, but it did find that Swann had removed the student's glasses and didn't return them until the end of the school day. "Students reported that you grabbed the student by his shirt, another reported that you grabbed him by the arm," the disciplinary letter read.

The letter told Swann that "physical discipline will not be tolerated nor the deprivation of a student's glasses as a means of punishment or redirection."

Both Jarrell and Swann were advised in their disciplinary notices that they would be terminated if they violate any board policies or state laws "from this date forward."

Attempts to reach Jarrell and Swann were unsuccessful Wednesday afternoon.

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The two were among several employees JCPS has taken another look at in recent months amid a review of some of its previous internal investigations where students were injured by adult staff members. One employee has been fired, while others have been returned to their posts with no new discipline following the reviews.

JCPS has not publicly listed the employees whose past investigations are being reviewed.

Amid JCPS' reviews of past investigations, the district is also facing heightened scrutiny from the state following a series of stories by the CJ on the district's use and reporting of student restraints.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt in July ordered a review of management practices at JCPS that was triggered by concerns that the state's largest school district had significantly under-reported restraints and also because of an incident first reported by the CJ in May that a boy with autism suffered two shattered femurs in 2014 in a restraint at the Binet School.

Reporter Allison Ross can be reached at (502) 582-4241. Follow the Courier-Journal's education team at

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