CCPS

Last week, the New Era reported that former Hopkinsville High School band director Jordan Seth Peveler had been arrested on three felony charges -- one count of unlawful transaction with a minor (second degree), sodomy (third degree) and rape (third degree) -- and booked into Christian County Jail.

According to the arrest warrant, Peveler is alleged to have abused his "position of authority or special trust" to bring a student under the influence of marijuana and coerce him or her into the inappropriate activity of a sexual nature in June 2017.

Peveler posted $10,000 bond and was released by Thursday afternoon. Commonwealth's Attorney Rick Boling said the case will be handled by a special prosecutor out of Murray, Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Foust.

In continued reporting, the New Era requested further documentation from Christian County Public Schools, including copies of any formal complaints filed against Jordan Seth Peveler during his tenure as band director at Hopkinsville High School.

In response, Superintendent Mary Ann Gemmill said that, "Neither the Central Office (including the Personnel Office) nor Hopkinsville High School is aware of, or has any knowledge, of any documents responsive to your request."

However, the superintendent did include a copy of the first notification from Kentucky State Police of the recently reported allegations.

"No school or district administrator had any prior knowledge of the allegations made in the KSP report," wrote Gemmill in her response.

According to the response, the KSP report-which states the possibility of multiple victims-was first provided to HHS Principal John Gunn on May 8, 2019. Dr. Gunn then contacted the central office, prompting Chief Administrative Officer and Personnel Director to immediately meet with Peveler and place him on administrative leave effective that day.

While still on leave, and as law enforcement continued to investigate the allegations, Peveler resigned on May 31, 2019. Five days later, law enforcement charged Peveler and he was booked in Christian County Jail.

First, it is despicable that any person in a position of authority or special trust to students might abuse that awesome responsibility and exploit a child's innocence for their own pleasure. We condemn these alleged activities in the strongest of terms.

Should the allegations be determined as true, we believe the sentencing should embrace the full extent of the law to set an example and be a deterrent against future misdeeds of a similar nature.

Second, we commend Christian County Public Schools for taking swift, appropriate action to immediately remove Peveler from interacting with students as soon as the administration was made aware of these allegations.

That being said, we ask that CCPS not stop there. We suggest CCPS overhaul its procedures and training so that it can better protect the students in its care and prevent future abuses of trust. Specifically, the system should lay down precise ground rules for what is and is not considered appropriate means of communication between teachers, coaches and students.

Undoubtedly, students must have an avenue to communicate with their instructors and coaches for reasons such as help on an assignment or a change in practice plans. However, the district should clearly define the means by which those communications are allowed, explicitly prohibiting any other method, and making clear that the approved methods are subject to monitoring.

These procedures are in place elsewhere. In Louisiana, communications between students and teachers via personal devices and accounts must be documented and obtain prior approval from the district. In New York City, teachers may only communicate with students through platforms established for classroom use -- email or applications such as ClassDojo or Remind.

These policies put the safety of students first and foremost. With summer break just beginning, the district has plenty of time to craft a such a policy of its own. We hope it will take the opportunity to do so.

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