‘Not a safe environment for any child.’ Bed bugs, safety concerns at School for the Deaf.

Jacobs Hall at Kentucky School For The Deaf in Danville. Photo by Matt Goins
Jacobs Hall at Kentucky School For The Deaf in Danville. Photo by Matt Goins

Some parents of students at the Kentucky School for the Deaf are asking Kentucky Board of Education members to act on alleged problems at the residential school in Danville, ranging from student safety to bad food to bed bugs in a dorm.

In response to the allegations sent Feb. 13 to state school board members, Jessica Fletcher, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said on Tuesday that “the Kentucky Department of Education is reviewing the complaints and will follow up with the Kentucky School for the Deaf.”

“Because many of the accusations deal with personnel issues and with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, they are confidential in nature and we are unable to comment on them,” Fletcher said. According to the Department website, the school had 87 students in pre-school through 12th grade in the 2017-18 school year.

Christy Adkins of Hopkins County, whose daughter is a junior at the school, said in a Feb. 13 letter to state board members that parents have not been notified when students were threatened in incidents that required police intervention.

In a follow up letter responding to questions from state board member Rich Gimmel, Adkins specified that parents were not notified last spring when a former student made “a shooting threat” to current students last spring at the prom, a threat that led to a plain clothes officer being present on the campus for the evening.

Adkins also said in the letter that in another incident, a male student had “threatened bodily harm” to fellow students.

“I am concerned as to the impact this behavior is having on the learning and living environments of the students on campus,” Adkins wrote in the letter that she shared with the Herald-Leader.

Adkins also said that several students did not receive speech and language services from August through November 2018 and that some students were taught for a number of months by a person who did not have certification from the state.

“I am sure you can appreciate the importance of speech and language services for children who are deaf and hard of hearing, who already have a significant speech and language delay,” Adkins told Gimmel. She said in an interview with the Herald-Leader that “it’s paramount to the education of the deaf and hard-of-hearing child. It’s one of the most important services I would venture to say they receive.”

The Kentucky School for the Deaf signing choir performed the national anthem prior to the second session of the 100th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen on Wednesday, March 15, 2017.

Tamara Cummins, a parent of a seventh grade student at the Kentucky School for the Deaf, earlier this month shared in writing her concerns with the state board of education and the school’s advisory board.

Cummins, of Madisonville, said the quality of food at the school was poor. She said in an interview that she is also concerned about bed bugs that were found in her daughter’s dorm room and whether appropriate measures have been taken to fix the problem. She said in a written statement to the school advisory board and the state board of education that she was concerned that students found responsible for a death threat and sexual harassment were allowed to return to school and parents weren’t notified about the incidents in a timely fashion.

Cummins and Adkins said they were among four parents who spoke at a Feb. 12 school advisory board meeting. Cummins and Adkins have expressed doubt about whether they will allow their children to remain at the Kentucky School for the Deaf.

“We have given our child to KSD to protect and educate throughout the week, we are expecting KSD to parent and love our child as we would,” Adkins said in the Feb. 13 letter to state board members.

“...It is not a safe environment for any child, but certainly not the trusting child with developmental delays,” Cummins wrote in a Feb. 14 letter.

And Cummins told the Herald-Leader. “I’m losing trust in the institution because of a lack of communication.”

Staff writer Valarie Honeycutt Spears covers K-12 education, social issues and other topics. She is a Lexington native with southeastern Kentucky roots.