JCPS received two allegations of physical student abuse in the two weeks before the district voted to relinquish its $15 million grant for the federal Head Start program.

In an incident report obtained by Insider, a parent asserted that one of the program’s classified instructors grabbed their child so hard it left three fingerprints above the student’s wrist on May 18.

Another report, filed on May 21, asserted that an instructional assistant “swatted” a student’s head, causing the student to hit her head on furniture and bruise her lip.

The two allegations, both pending, follow six other incidents reported in the program since Jan. 1, 2018. Of the six — all contending that physical harm was inflicted on students — three were labeled substantiated, two unsubstantiated and one is still pending.

The recent accusations bring the total number of abuse or neglect allegations since October 2016 in the Head Start program to 40. Because of the allegations, at least eight Head Start employees have been fired this school year, and several more have resigned, a JCPS spokeswoman told Insider. 

Three-fourths of the incidents were allegedly caused by instructional assistants, the report records show.

The Jefferson County Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday night to give up the district’s $15 million federal grant for the early childhood program, instead opting to move the children to the district’s own program and pay for it with the general fund.

JCPS’ Head Start program has been under scrutiny since October when a report from the Administration of Family and Children discovered a culture of abuse in the program, including 16 abuse or neglect allegations from October 2016 to May 2017.

Ann Linehan

From August to October 2017, the district received another eight allegations, which resulted in at least four staff terminations. Since October, there have been another 16 allegations.  

“This is a five-alarm fire, and we need every hand on deck,” Ann Linehan, acting director of Head Start, told the JCBE in October. At the time, the program was the only one of 1,600 in the nation at risk of emergency suspension.

Since then, the district has been working to change the culture and improve reporting. JCPS implemented a corrective action plan, which focused on providing additional training for staff.

However, even one more incident could cause the district to lose the funding, the district said, partially prompting the board to give up the grant.

Before the vote, board member Chris Kolb asked if this was a way to get ahead of the federal program. JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said it was.

Around 1,500 students are in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

This story has been updated to correct the number of terminations and resignations caused by the allegations.