INDIANAPOLIS -- Some of the Indianapolis Public Schools employees who lost their jobs over the Shana Taylor case say the blame lies not with them, but with Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee.
Kevin Betz represents now-fired IPS Assistant Principal William Jensen and fired Director of Student Services Deb Leser.
Ferebee found out about the alleged inappropriate relationship between the counselor and student on February 17 – the same day as Jensen and Leser, according to documents submitted to the IPS school board.
Ferebee also failed to notify police or the Department of Child Services, records say.
State law requires school employees to immediately report allegations of child abuse or neglect to police or DCS.
“Dr. Ferebee began a cover-up of the Shana Taylor matter until his pay raise was approved by the IPS Board,” read the documents submitted by Betz. “Dr. Ferebee received a large pay raise and bonus of $60,000 and a 2-year contract extension for his nearly $210,000 a year job- on February 25, 2016- mere days after learning of the inappropriate relationship and failing to report it.”
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Documents show Ferebee said it wasn't his job to ask more questions about what kind of relationship took place.
“Dr. Ferebee also testified on June 23, 2016 that it was not his job as chief executive and Superintendent to ask what kind of inappropriate relationship once he learned of an inappropriate relationship,” read the documents.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry reviewed the case and ultimately decided not to charge Ferebee.
"From all of the information gathered, the emails, Superintendent Ferebee had very superficial knowledge of what had occurred, at best," Curry said in April.
Jensen’s attorney points out the district’s policy directed Jensen to contact the head of human resources or the Title IX coordinator, not police or the Indiana Department of Child Services.
On March 8, human resources offered Jensen a $20,000 buy-out for retirement, according to documents.
Betz also pointed out that IPS failed to terminate most of the members of the “Longfellow 12,” or the individuals who knew about the alleged inappropriate relationship but failed to report it.
Those individuals include Dr. Lewis Ferebee, Le Boler, Wanda Legrand, Tina Hester, Shalon Dabney, Deb Leser, William Jensen, Mark Cosand, Beryl Borel, Michael Gibbs, Dr. Kevin Brown, and Sandy Bombic.
The IPS school board accepted Hester and Dabney’s resignations Thursday night. Mark Cosand resigned.
The IPS Board released a statement to Call 6 Investigates Thursday night in support of Ferebee. Find the full statement below:
"The last five months have been a difficult time for IPS and the IPS family. We have been the focus of public attention due to a very unfortunate incident. An incident that was not only, in itself tragic, but also was not handled well by far too many people.
The board and the administration accept our responsibility for any mistakes. We are doing everything in our power to ensure that this never happens again. The safety and security of our students are the most important obligation we have to our families.
It is important to remind everyone, however, that despite the delays in timely reporting, the alleged abuser was barred from her school and relieved of her duties at the district’s very first opportunity – the morning following the evening officials first learned of the alleged abuse.
Fortunately, this type of incident is rare. And because it is rare, and so disturbing, it attracts a lot of attention. Unfortunately, by dominating the news about our district, it also draws attention away from many important accomplishments; working with our students, teachers, families, staff, and education partners, we:
- Cut in half the number of IPS schools designated as failing;
- Earned the district’s highest graduation rate in our storied history;
- Increased the African American male graduation rate by 7%;
- Completed a landmark bargaining agreement after years of no salary adjustments;
- Dramatically downsized the central office and shifted more resources to schools;
- Expanded preschool opportunities and grew our most popular programs;
There are so many examples of progress, real progress, in a district that has been at best, stuck in mediocrity, and at worst, failing thousands of families and their children year after year.
Significant and positive changes have come to IPS under the leadership of Dr. Ferebee. To his credit, he has kept a steady hand at the helm of this district throughout these trying times. He has maintained a focus on the right things, and not allowed the continuing coverage of this single event to slow his pace or weaken his commitment to our most important work—building a 21st century urban school system capable of uplifting lives and transforming our community.
Thank you, Dr. Ferebee.
To our friends in the media, we understand that this has been an important story to cover. We have worked hard to be responsive to your requests. We thank you for keeping the public informed on this issue, but we would also welcome your equal attention to our progress, as well as covering our challenges.
What is happening in our schools on a daily basis is both inspiring and evidence that we are on the right path. I have no doubt that if you make an effort to chronicle our progress, you will understand why all of us are so proud about how far we’ve come.
And much is yet to come."