School Board Needs History Lesson

February 24th, 2009 by

Audeen Jacobs was a teacher in the Clark County (Kentucky) school system. She retired in June 2003, but was hired back on a 100 day contract in the fall of that same year. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she volunteered to sponsor the high school’s Beta Club, an honor society that requires students to maintain a specific grade point average.
On December 6, 2003, she accompanied the students to a Beta convention in Louisville. She was paid while attending the conference and had secured permission from the high school principal to attend. In other words, Jacobs was clearly “in the course and scope of employment” when she fell from a set of bleachers and severely injured her left shoulder.
The Clark County school board denied the claim, lost at the initial and appeal levels, and lost for the last time at the Kentucky Supreme Court. The board argued that participation in the Beta club was not required and, like other extracurricular activities, the club was of “intangible benefit” to students.
The judges did not buy this specious argument. They pointed out that Beta club activities were directly connected to educational goals and that participating students had access to scholarships only available to Beta members. Jacobs was off-site, but directly involved in school-related activities.
History Lessons
Audeen Jacobs gave a lot to the kids in Beta. Maybe it’s time for the kids to give something back. The Insider would like to propose an extracurricular project: a presentation to the school board on the history, purpose and importance of workers compensation. The kids might even ask Audeen Jacobs to attend, to share her experience of being injured and unable to work, the pain and shock of the initial fall, the subsequent operations, the medications, the indemnity payments that helped her pay her bills.
While the kids have the attention of a board that is clueless about comp, they might want to take the opportunity to provide an historical lesson in irony and ambiguity. Their high school is named for a revolutionary war hero. Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, is a little background on Mr. Clark:

George Rogers Clark (November 19, 1752 – February 13, 1818) was a soldier from Virginia and the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War. He served as leader of the Kentucky militia throughout much of the war, Clark is best-known for his celebrated capture of Kaskaskia (1778) and Vincennes (1779), which greatly weakened British influence in the Northwest Territory. Because the British ceded the entire Northwest Territory to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, Clark has often been hailed as the “Conqueror of the Old Northwest.”

Clark’s military achievements all came before his 30th birthday. Afterwards, he was disgraced and accused of being drunken on duty and therefore left Kentucky to live on the Indiana frontier. Never fully reimbursed by Virginia for his wartime expenditures, he spent the final decades of his life evading creditors, living in increasing poverty and obscurity, and often struggling with alcoholism. He was also involved in two failed conspiracies to open the Spanish controlled Mississippi River to American traffic. After suffering a stroke and losing his leg, he was aided in his final years by family members, including his younger brother William, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clark died of a third stroke on February 13, 1818.

The name of George Rogers Clark graces the facade of the county high school. I wonder how many school board members – let alone kids in the school – appreciate the rich history behind that simple name.