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

Last Modified: Friday, October 12, 2012 6:47 PM

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.”


Posted By: Michael On: 10/12/2012

Title: Responsibility

At what point can someone assume that a student...who surely has been on these trips before... has SOME personal responsibility? I chaperon our high school band and our students know that after boarding the bus for travel they cannot leave and face discipline if they do.
This student should be suspended for exiting the bus. Outlandish behavior is NOT the responsibility of the sponsor. Has this mother asked her child why in the world she exited the safety of the bus???

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