Whitesburg KY

Jenkins school officials cleared in abuse case

Charges have been dismissed against the Jenkins Independent School System, its superintendent and football coach on charges of failing to report a sexual assault of a Jenkins High School student last November.

The charge of “failure to report child dependency, neglect or abuse” was dismissed against the school system because it is an entity not a person, according to an order signed October 26 by the judge assigned to hear the case, Knott District Judge Dennis B. Prater.

Charges against Jenkins Superintendent Deborah Watts and Coach Larry Maggard were also dismissed because the statute doesn’t address the issue of abuse of a child by another child. Prater noted that the Kentucky Supreme Court has held in a previous case (Turner v. Nelson) that “the mandatory reporting requirements of Kentucky Revised Statute 620.030 does not apply when a child inappropriately touches another child unless a parent, guardian or other person exercising custodial control or supervision allows such inappropriate touching to be committed or creates or allows such a risk of abuse.”

Prater stated that the abuse being alleged was perpetrated by another juvenile upon the complaining witness’s child and not by the de- fendant. According to the court opinion, the defendant’s conduct or lack thereof does not have criminal culpability under KRS 620.030.

According to statute, any person with knowledge of a child being neglected or abused is charged with immediately contacting police, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the Commonwealth’s attorney or the county attorney, and with submitting an oral or written report to one of those four agencies.

The three parties named in the Letcher District Court summonses were accused of “intentionally failing to comply with a duty to report physical abuse and injury to a child.” The charge is a class B misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a class B misdemeanor is no more than 90 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $250 plus court costs.

Pike County Attorney Keith Hall served as special prosecutor in the case. Sources said at the time of the incident that the school system was initially handling the investigation on its own, but that police were later notified about the incident, which occurred last Nov. 5, after a male student admitted to his parents that he had been molested with the handle of a broom by two other male students.

Two juveniles were charged in the case and prosecuted by the Letcher County Attorney’s Office.

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