Lee County Schools superintendent responds to claims of underreporting ‘disruptive, violent’ incidents

Reporter: Peter Fleischer
Published: Updated:

The interim superintendent at The School District of Lee County responded to us after we investigated school safety at a District school. This comes after a former Lee County assistant principal raised claims about school safety reporting.

Interim Superintendent Ken Savage emphasized safety for students and faculty.

But Peggy Slichter, a former administrator, has concerns about whether that’s true in all Lee County schools.

“Horrible,” Slichter said.

That was her response after we asked Slichter how communication has been between her and the District.

Lee County Schools told us it launched an internal investigation into allegations from Slichter about underreporting of “disruptive and violent” incidents, but Slichter says she can’t get any answers about the investigation or why her contract wasn’t renewed after 20 years as an administrator.

“I have to pull the information out of them. It has not been easy at all,” Slichter said. “I tried to reach out to HR before school was even out about this. They never reached back out to me.”

Slichter’s biggest concern centered around SESIR reporting. The SESIR program has existed since the mid-90s but was revamped after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

SESIR is meant to inform the state about what schools need more resources and funding to care for troubled students and centers around reports that schools are responsible for submitting.

Slichter’s former school, Manatee Elementary, filed zero SESIR reports for the past two school years combined. She worries about the validity of the District’s internal investigation.

“I don’t feel it has been followed properly,” Slichter said. “I would like someone from the outside to come into this.”

We spoke to Savage about our story and the claims of underreporting.

“I can’t speak to any specific children in that particular piece, just from a privacy rights standpoint,” Savage said. “I can’t speak to any of that.”

A week after two Harns Marsh middle schoolers were arrested for planning a school shooting, Savage says the district is committed to following SESIR protocol.

“The SESIR data is very important,” Savage said. “It speaks to some of those more significant incidents that can occur at schools, and so it’s always of great value to us.”

Slichter believes her stance on SESIR reporting cost her job, but while she waits on the District’s investigation to end, and she searches for her next landing spot, she isn’t looking back.

“Something is not right. Communicate it. It’s so important to communicate it because you’re doing the right thing,” Slichter said. “I don’t regret it.”

We emailed the District to ask why Slichter’s contract was not renewed and also requested an interview with her former principal, Scott Lemaster. We were still waiting to hear back Tuesday.

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