Few answers about districtwide policies in wake of Washington-Marion incident

By By Ashley Withers / American Press

The Calcasieu Parish School Board gave few answers regarding districtwide policies for extracurricular sponsors after a recent incident that left

a dance team member abandoned at a local Walmart.

On Sept. 28, Myiah Myles, 14, and the

rest of the Washington-Marion dance team were headed to Leesville to

perform during

the school’s football game. The group stopped at the Walmart on

U.S. 171, and Myles left the bus. Different accounts of the

incident leave questions as to what happened next, but the bus

left Myles at the Walmart at the direction of dance team sponsor

Erika Mouton and Washington-Marion Principal Robert Pete.

After the incident, Pete was reprimanded, but Myles’ mother was told that the school system could not discipline Mouton because

“she was not an official CPSB employee.”

Greg Belfour, the School Board’s legal counsel, said extracurricular sponsors must follow the same processes as substitute

teachers in Calcasieu Parish. They fill out an application and fingerprint card and undergo the same background check that

full-time teachers do.

The distinction between sponsors and employees lies in the pay schedule. Belfour said sponsors do not follow the district

salary schedule and are instead given a stipend by each particular school.

Drill squad and cheerleader sponsors receive a stipend of $2,400 for completing football and basketball seasons.

The American Press was originally told by Calcasieu Parish Superintendent Wayne Savoy that sponsor duties and rules vary by school.

But Washington-Marion High School does not have a written set of rules specific to extracurricular sponsors.

The only mention of specific duties for

the dance team sponsor appears in the Washington-Marion Dancing Dolls

Constitution.

One rule reads, “The sponsor will handle any/all problems that

arise and, if necessary will call upon the band director and/or

principal for assistance. The penalties can be more severe than

those listed in this constitution.”

A closer examination of the School Board’s District Policy Manual ­— which is available online — reveals that extracurricular

sponsors must still follow the section on employee conduct.

“All employees, volunteers, student

teachers, interns, and any other person affiliated with the Calcasieu

Parish School Board

have the responsibility to be familiar with and abide by the laws

of the state, the policies and decisions of the School Board,

and the administrative regulations and procedures designed to

implement Board policies,” it reads.

The employee conduct section lists several specific rules pertaining to general demeanor, maintaining positive personal behavior

and following all terms of an employee’s contract.

It also includes a section that says an

employee’s actions should be dictated by the “nature of the position

held by the employee

and standards of common sense.”

“By virtue of one’s education and

experience, an employee knows and understands that certain actions or

conducts are unacceptable

even in the absence of formal Board policy,” the manual reads.

“For instance, without the need of a

specific prohibition or warning, a classroom teacher should be aware of

the impropriety

of certain practices such as leaving students unattended, using

profanity or sexually suggestive language, or bringing a firearm

onto campus.”

The American Press filed a public records request for all correspondence between School Board employees and the dance team sponsor regarding

the Sept. 28 incident.

But these documents were placed in an

employee’s personnel file, and laws such as the Personnel Files Act and

the Family Educational

Rights and Privacy Act prevented the board from sharing them, the

newspaper was told.

“These laws prevent me from providing

documents which may more fully explain what occurred. Even though these

documents could

impact your opinion about what transpired, the circumstances noted

therein would not change the fact that a student was left

alone, even if it was for only the few minutes it took for both

the mother and school administrator to arrive,” Savoy wrote

in a letter. “I deeply regret that these events occurred, and

assure you that our employees are expected to handle such situations

differently.”

Savoy said he and the school system stand behind their original statement that the “situation was handled.”

Online: www.cpsb.org.