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Petition demands removal of coast superintendent

A petition on the coast is calling for Jackson County Superintendent, Dr. Barry Amacker, to be fired after reports of a mishandled incident from 2015 involving two employees and special needs student.

The petition has over 650 signatures and claims that Dr. Amacker and the district failed to report a case of abuse of a special needs child to the Mississippi Department of Education. Surveillance video shows Kerri Anne Nettles, a former teacher, threatening the child and stuffing a towel in her mouth while yelling at her to stay quiet while on a bus.

After the incident, Nettles and Antionette Raymond were placed on leave and later fired. Amacker says that the district took swift action in removing the two for their role in the incident.

“We acted accordingly, the minute we learned about this the employees were placed on administrative leave and then they were subsequently terminated within the next day or two, and the matter was turned over to law enforcement,” he said.

The petition states that a report was never filed with the MDE. Amacker says that a report was sent in, but they do not have a copy of the report. The district is currently attempting to revive an old email server to recover a copy of the report.

The MDE did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Creator of the petition, Holly Fedele says that the failure to report such an incident shows that parents cannot trust the district.

“Parents must send a strong message that superintendents need to be held responsible for not correcting and reporting abuse as required by law….By not reporting the blatant abuse of a vulnerable child, he cannot be trusted to protect any children.” – Change.org petition 

Amacker said that an updated report was sent in after the court case was settled. Moving forward, the superintendent said that they will strive to keep better records in matters such as this, but he feels confident in their handling of this difficult situation.

“I took action, and I feel comfortable about the action we took. We have learned that we may need to do a better job of documentation and following through with the MDE more, or getting some kind of confirmation. Those are corrective actions that we can take in the future,” Amacker said.

Amacker reiterated that they are committed to providing a safe learning environment for all students. The conversation surrounding this issue will continue at Monday’s Board meeting, and Fedele is on the agenda to speak.

Nettles recently pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the neglect of a child and simple assault and was hit with a $3,000 fine and a 30-day suspended prison sentence.

Raymond, a teacher’s assistant, awaits a decision in her case.

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