Editorial: Calcasieu board should set policies for sponsors

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?

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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.