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Editorial: Calcasieu board should set policies for sponsors

Last Modified: Tuesday, October 09, 2012 5:29 PM

An incident involving a Washington-Marion High School freshman abandoned at Walmart by her dance team coach is providing a wake-up call to Calcasieu Parish school leaders.

The question is: Do they hear it?

Here are the facts, as best as we know them: Myiah Myles, 14, was headed with her dance team for Leesville High on a school bus on the evening of Sept. 28. Washington-Marion and Leesville were scheduled to play football that night. Erica Mouton, dance team sponsor, had the bus driver stop at Walmart so she could pick up supplies. Myiah got off the bus as well. The two later had words and Mouton called Washington-Marion principal Robert Pete, then said she was calling Myiah’s mother. Mouton then got on the bus and the driver drove away, leaving the 14-year-old alone. Myiah’s mother, Phyllis Kinchen, said neither the principal nor sponsor called her.

We can’t know the source of the dispute, if it was ongoing or who was at fault. Myiah said Mouton reprimanded her; Mouton is not talking.

But it is hard, too, to imagine any circumstance in which a grown-up who has assumed custody of a child, even for a dance team performance in Leesville, would be justified in abandoning that child. Responsible adults, especially parents, know that children’s behavior can be difficult and that their judgment can be suspect. To abandon a child without supervision on a Friday night — especially after assuming responsibility for that child — is dangerous.

School officials told The American Press last week that the school principal, not the school system, is responsible for hiring and oversight of extracurricular sponsors and coaches. The bus driver, who is a school system employee, must take the direction of the sponsor; if she says drive away and leave the child, he must. Fredman Hardy, who represents the Washington-Marion area on the school board, said he understands the problem but says the superintendent and the school have responsibility. At the central office, David Buller, head of the school system’s High School Department, would only say, “The situation was handled.”

Fingerpointing and cryptic explanations are not good enough. Superintendent Wayne Savoy said the Calcasieu system has no set policy for extracurricular sponsors and coaches. It needs one.

School system parents ought to know how such non-school employees are hired, what training they receive, what guidelines, if any, they must follow. They must know if these extracurricular sponsors and coaches have passed background checks, and how the system responds when incidents like this occur. Hardy said he would not bring the matter up with the school board, but someone should.

Fortunately, Myiah Myles went home with her mother on Sept. 28. Next time, who knows?

•••

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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