In earlier posts there has been issued the question of whether or not the public outcry which erupted out of Frisco, Texas over the distribution of Bibles from the Gideons International organization could occur here. If various residents, residential groups, or businesses distributed religious material in various places owned by, and paid for with public taxes, attempted to pass out literature that was religious in nature, would their be an outcry? What exactly does the law allow regarding the distribution of religious material?
In Frisco, the Gideons International was allowed by the school system to enter into the various schools and distribute the pocket sized New Testament Bibles to any student that desired one. The school system provided many statements that confirmed that the intent was to assist in curbing the proselytizing that was occurring in school hours. The students never seemed to mind the organization passing out the Bibles, but the parents did.
Here in Jefferson County Public Schools, the attitude toward organizations passing out religious literature is to keep them out of the schools. When asked what regulations, if any, existed regarding the distribution of religious materials and literature existed within JCPS, the Public Information Officer, Lauren Roberts wrote “We do not allow representatives of outside organizations of any kind to distribute materials to our students on school property. “
This has not always been the case with the school district, however. In the late 1980’s, famed champion boxer, Muhammad Ali was at a few schools in Southwest Jefferson County, presenting autographed copies of a book discussing various beliefs of the Islam movement he is affiliated with. A copy of this book has been shown to representatives at this site.
When Mr. Ali presented the books, there was no reports of frustration or complaints elicited by the students, faculty, or parents.
Jefferson County Public Schools has already had many parents complain about the placement of students, and the transportation of students throughout the county. For those issues, many parents have filed for hardship transfers, but some parents are wondering what document can be filed to complain about the issues of communication that have been occurring at JCPS.
Recently, therealville has obtained a letter addressed to the parents of a student that claimed that they did not receive the notification of student placement until after the hardship transfers begin. “I had to call down to the school that I thought they would be admitted to in order to be informed of where they had been assigned and how to file a hardship transfer”, said the mother of two students enrolled in Jefferson County Public Schools.
“Since filing the hardship transfer, I regularly call down to the school district office, and have even called the Superintendent’s office. They keep telling me to be patient and that I should have the information in about 15 working days. Why should I believe that when they did not get the letter to me until after the time to file for a hardship transfer?”
When reviewing the student assignment letters, the envelope on both letters are machine stamped with the date of May 12, 2009 from the area code 40211. The letter that is contained within the envelope is dated for May 1, 2009, and is sent from the principal of the school that the district assigned them to, which in this case was Stephen Foster Traditional Academy.
Therealville has sought for answers on why it has taken the school district eleven days to send the letter after it has been typed, and if the principal of the school would accept homework assignments twelve days after it had been assigned, no comments were given.
The length of time has not been the only issue for these and many other parents, the distance away from the home, and the time that it would take to be on the bus, away from the home has caused various difficulties as well. When addressing this issue previously in the Courier-Journal, Mr. Sheldon Berman simply stated that parents should be patient and they may grow to appreciate the school that the school district had chosen for them. This has caused a minor cry to break out.
“Why should the school district, who has never met my child or myself have the choice of where to bus my child? I live in this area, and I want my child in this area. There are openings for their grades at the school one mile away, and they deem it best to bus them over twenty miles? I see why the education level of children seems to be diminished,” states one father.
When these parents have attempted to get in touch with school officials, they are continually told to be patient, and is often on hold for a good deal of time. Some have been informed that the school district is calling the various schools where the students are wishing to be transferred to, but after checking at various schools within the district, as of Thursday, few calls have come to request information regarding class openings. “We have not received any calls regarding school transfers”, stated one JCPS employee at a school in southwest Jefferson County.
Parents have already stated that they are frustrated that the Jefferson County Public School District has determined that their children should be placed in an area a good distance from their homes, now parents are angered by the lack of proper communication and the tardiness of the JCPS staff in determining the status of hardship transfers.
Sunday, May 10, 2009 the Courier-Journal newspaper published a front-page article regarding the difficulties and frustrations that various parents are having and voicing regarding the Jefferson County Public School System. Within that article the reporter quoted various individuals who voiced their concern about sending their children to school miles away from their residence, as well as another mother that stated that they might be forced to home school the children. All of this information is eerily similar to the information that therealville informed you; the reader about on the day that hardship transfers began.
The article in the Courier-Journal did quote Sheldon Berman, the superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools as saying that parents should give the assigned schools a chance. He stated that they may be pleasantly surprised with the choice.
Despite their own reports regarding this story, there are some startling facts that merit review. First, this story was first published online by Therealville. Second, all information that they have provided about the hardship transfers, as well as individuals seeking the transfers, has already been reported. Therealville reported this story first, in the article titled “Hardship Transfers Giving Hard Times”.
A little over four hours since “Hardship Transfers” have been able to be distributed and accepted by the Jefferson County Public School system, and there are already reports of frustration and distress coming from various citizens, (primarily mothers), attempting to get their children into the school of choice. Typically, their “school of choice” is the one closest to home.
It makes sense in this economy to keep the children closer to their home so that they are easily accessible in case of an emergency, or even to keep them from riding a bus and accumulating expenses that the residents pay for in taxes. The Mayor Jerry Abramson has stated that there is a $20 million shortfall that could be accumulated in revenue this year, and has asked his city workers to figure out ways to bring about the goods that the city distributes in a way that is not as draining on the revenue that the city currently brings in. This applies to every department, but apparently not to the school system.
Kathy McGinnis, the JCPS official in charge of handling the hardship transfers, has already upset some individuals who are finding that they must stick their children into the public school system after years of being in private schools. “I didn’t want to send my children to public school to begin with, and I told her that”, stated one upset mother. “Why they feel the need to send children miles away from home when schools that are closer to home have openings are beyond me.”
After speaking with school representatives, it is the responsibility of the principals of each school to inform the JCPS officials if there are openings in the school, and in the grade level for which openings occur. “The problem is that the principal may not have an accurate assessment, but a general assumption”, stated one worker. “That is why many parents are getting frustrated that they have to spend more time and money filing the hardship transfers.”
Even more troubling is the manner in which some of the parents are learning that their children are not going to be enlisted in their school of choice. “We have yet to receive the original letter stating that my children were to be sent downtown. I had to find out by calling the school that I thought that they were going to be at, and they looked it up in the system, which is exactly what the school district office stated that they could not do,” stated one mother from the PRP area.
“Not only do I not want them to not attend public schools- I certainly do not want them to attend one in Jefferson County. If this is the best that the district can do in communicating the educational assignment of our children, then why should I believe that they have proper communication while educating them?” she asked.
“You tell me why you are sending my children clear across town!” demanded one angry mother at the district offices this morning. “It does not make sense to send them twenty miles away!”
Frustrated, dejected, and angered, the various parents are left to penning down their frustrations in the form of hardship transfers, with absolutely no assurance that their requests will be answered, or communication improved.
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