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Pre-Filed Bill In Response To Past McCracken County Schools Investigation

Danny Carroll's Facebook page

  A pre-filed bill for Kentucky’s legislative session would clarify state law on reporting child abuse, dependency and neglect. The state lawmaker who filed the bill said its partially in response to last year’s criminal investigation into McCracken County Schools.

 

The McCracken County High School Principal Michael Ceglinski and director of pupil personnel Brian Bowland last year were charged for failing to report alleged inappropriate contact of students. McCracken County Attorney Sam Clymer eventually dropped the charges

 

State Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Paducah) said because of what happened with last year’s investigation, he wants to make sure state law is clear that superviors of minors must immediately report cases of child abuse, dependency and neglect. He said he talked with stakeholders including McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter and the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents in crafting the bill.

 

“The expectation is to report any suspected incident immediately to officials and not investigate it,” Carroll said. “It would just clarify that in order to avoid any perceptions that any school officials trying to protect the school or protect any staff member. That’s what it’s really about.”

 

The proposed bill would change the language in the current law that supervisors would “immediately” have to report cases, instead of “promptly”. The bill would also prohibit school officials from conducting an investigation before reporting it to proper officials listed in the statute. Carroll said the bill would still allow school personnel to conduct a further investigation after one is completed by officials that include law enforcement.

 

“It just seems that this has gotten a different kind of a different interpretation of it as the years have gone by, and we just wanted to narrow the focus once more,” Carroll said.

 

Current law requires supervisors to report cases to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, a commonwealth attorney, a county attorney, or local and state law enforcement. The proposed bill would eliminate commonwealth’s attorneys and county attorneys from being officials that can receive reports. 

 

Carroll said the elimination was solely to align the law with the how incidents are reported and make the reporting process more efficient. He said in actual practice, these type of reports aren’t given directly to prosecutors like commonwealth’s attorneys and county attorneys, so they were eliminated from receiving reports in the proposed bill.

 

An attorney representing alleged sexual misconduct victims from McCracken County High School believes this elimination would also potentially prevent the reporting process from being politicized. 

 

“It’s clear that what [Carroll is] doing is cutting out any possible political influence that could be injected in these kind of cases,” said Bard Brian. “He eliminated reporting to the commonwealth attorney or the county attorney, which are elected offices.”

 

Brian and another attorney made a request last year to then-Attorney General Andy Beshear to give a legal opinion on county attorney Sam Clymer’s interpretation of KRS 620.040, which led to Clymer dropping charges against high school administration. The attorneys allege Clymer was politically motivated to drop charges. The request was subsequently rejected by Beshear’s office.

 

When Carroll was asked about Brian’s commentary, Carroll reiterated the elimination in the proposed bill was solely related to making the reporting process more efficient.

 

McCracken County Schools Spokesperson Jayme Jones in an email said the proposed bill aligns with the district’s current practices of reporting cases immediately to proper officials. County Attorney Sam Clymer in an email said he’s talked with Carroll about problems with the statute in question, but he wouldn’t directly comment on the proposed bill. 

 

 

Clymer also said the definitions of key terms including “dependent”, “neglected” and “abused” need to be clearly defined in the body of the statute so that law enforcement and prosecutors don’t have to conduct “complicated legal research” to learn the meanings of the words. He said he believed Carroll was aware of this problem.

 

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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