By Marsha Sills
November 01, 2012
LAFAYETTE — A few weeks ago, Lafayette Parish School Superintendent Pat Cooper said one of his goals was to end the practice of sending home suspended students.
But that practice is still continuing — at least, he said, until more space is found to house suspended students.
The issue came up at Wednesday’s School Board meeting, prompted by the 14 Carencro Middle School students who earlier this month received out-of-school suspensions and were sent home.
Some board members said that conflicted with Cooper’s previous comments on the district’s new discipline policy.
“You stood here two weeks ago and said, ‘We’re not sending our children home.’ It was a vacation for them and you were not going to allow it,” board member Tommy Angelle said to Cooper.
A new principal was appointed to the school earlier this month and board members Greg Awbrey and Angelle questioned whether the former principal had the same discretion to send students home.
Cooper told the board that sending students home is an option for all principals when safety is an issue.
“I don’t want these kids to go home, but I’m not going to let those kids be a safety issue with the kids that are there. I’m going to let that principal make that decision,” Cooper said.
“We try to keep them in school as long as we can,” Cooper added. “In the case of Carencro Middle, that school was completely out of control.”
Board member Tehmi Chassion requested data by school on the number of students who had been sent home for behavioral issues since the start of the school year. Cooper said that information will be provided at a later date.
More space for students with behavioral issues will be open Nov. 1 at the former N.P. Moss Annex site, which has been under renovation for the past few months. The site will provide schools “some relief,” board member Kermit Bouillion said.
Awbrey questioned whether students could still be sent home after Nov. 1.
Cooper said home is still an option for out-of-school suspension at the principal’s discretion.
Carencro High parents Troy and Mona Bodoin asked the board to consider tougher consequences and said they support sending students home as a punishment.
“They need to go home. My daughters are in classes and they’re not learning because they’ve got disruption in the class,” Troy Bodoin said.
Several more parents shared frustrations about discipline problems in classrooms and concern that instructional time is being taken away from their children.
“We have to figure something out. We’re just asking for your help,” said Lisa Brewer, whose two daughters attend Carencro High.
Later in the meeting, Cooper said even though the Moss site won’t be fully operational until Nov. 1, “there are things that can be done in the schools right now that aren’t being done. Maybe it’s because we haven’t made it clear enough.”
After the meeting, Cooper said not sending students home is a “noble goal” and his preferred choice, but in some circumstances to maintain safety on campus principals may have to send students home.
Also before the board Wednesday:
ENROLLMENT: Lafayette Parish schools’ enrollment increased by about 3 percent compared with last school year. As of Tuesday, 31,044 students were enrolled in the school system compared with an estimated 30,090 students last year, said LaShona Dickerson, the district’s instructional technology director. Dickerson told the board that staff is still reviewing enrollment figures and will have an updated account to file with the state at the end of the month.
ARTS CONTRACT: The board unanimously approved a $165,000 contract with the Acadiana Center for the Arts to continue a long-standing arts integration program. The Primary Academic Creative Experiences, or PACE program, teams artists with elementary classroom teachers to help students better understand math, English, science and social studies through hands-on arts projects.