Can The Lafayette Parish School System Hold Parents Financially Responsible For Lockdowns?
The Lafayette Parish School System is looking into ways to further hold students and their parents responsible for major threats that lock down district schools.
At Wednesday night's LPSS school board meeting, board member Dr. Tehmi Chassion, who represents District 4, asked the district's attorney if the school system could seek restitution from parents whose children force lockdowns and major responses from law enforcement over threats posted to social media and elsewhere.
"Yes," was the short reply from Bob Hammonds.
The longer answer, he said, was that the district would have to prove actual damages.
"We have to be able to prove the damages," Hammonds said. "I do think that parents are responsible for the actions of their children. And if, in fact, the school system incurred expenses the result of their actions, and you can prove it was their actions that necessitated those expenses, I think that in a civil case the school would be entitled to recovery of damages."
Lafayette District Attorney Don Landry was also at the meeting at the behest of board members and provided input.
"I can certainly see where parents would be responsible for the actions of their children," he said when asked the same question by Chassion.
Expanding Discipline For Threats
LPSS saw seven lockdowns in as many days earlier in October. There have been calls for tightening discipline and seeking preventative measures to keep the schools from finding themselves under threat so often.
On the legal side, Chris Landry, who works in the DA's office and is responsible for overseeing juvenile criminal cases, explained the legal process to the board.
“Once the Juvenile is arrested there is a 72-hour period that happens," he said. "Within that 72 hours, it then it moves to an answer hearing, where they can admit or deny the allegations, then you’re going to have a motion to take a month later. Then you have the trial period. So it can move up to three months depending on if we get the reports or information from law enforcement."
“We do have options," Superintendent Irma Trosclair said in the meeting, "you are not guaranteed to come back to a school where you have made staff other students or all of these families anxious and nervous."
The Board voted 8-1 to require students arrested for terrorizing to undergo a mental health evaluation. That policy change will be added to the student handbook next year.
Lafayette High School was locked down twice in the span of a week due to online threats, and Paul Breaux Middle and Acadiana High were locked down multiple times this year. The district was in communication with parents, but both parents and the district are seeking to improve communication.
Parents who attended the meeting asked for emergency updates every 30 minutes during lockdown situations. Board member Justin Centanni recommended emergency response teams at each school that would include hourly communication with parents as one of the team's tasks.
Parents had expressed concern with the lack of communication and a general sense of a lack of safety at area schools. Five students have been arrested and charged for terrorizing.
District Attorney Don Landry wants to help be part of a proactive solution to the lockdown threats by visiting local schools and talk with students and parents about the consequences of making false threats.
“We’d love to come in and just give a quick spiel on the consequences, and the consequences are more than just what the juvenile might face because we called in an improper communication," Landry told the board. "We want them to realize together with that, you’ve got first responders coming with police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, traversing the entire parish with high rates of speed with lights and sirens, putting all of Acadiana in some type of jeopardy. I don’t think they think about that. They don’t realize it. They don’t realize what affect it might have on the parents, their parents, and their grandparents.”