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Changes made during policy meeting

By: NANCY DUPLECHAIN
Associate Editor

The Evangeline Parish School Board’s Policy, Athletic and Curriculum Committee voted to accept current and new policies. Among the updates are changes to what to do with students who make threats and sexual harassment.
In the policy on school and student safety, if it is determined that a student’s threat of violence or terrorism is credible and imminent, it shall be reported to the District Attorney, who may file a petition with judicial court for medical, psychological, and psychiatric examination. If the D.A. decides not to file the petition, the student shall be permitted to return to school. The school shall permit the student to return if at any point prior to a hearing the threat is determined not to be credible after investigation by the school administration, law enforcement, or the D.A., or by order of the court after a hearing. The D.A. has seven days to determine if the threat is credible.
Threat of terrorism means communication, whether oral, visual, or written, including but not limited to electronic mail, letters, notes, social media posts, text messages, blogs, or posts on any social networking website, of any crime of violence that would reasonably cause any student, teacher, principal, or school employee to be in sustained fear for their safety, cause the evacuation of a building, or cause other serious disruption to the operation of a school.
Threat of violence means communicating through any of the means above, of any intent to kill, maim, or cause great bodily harm to a student, teacher, principal, or school employee on school property or at any school function.
In the sexual harassment policy, if an investigated sexual harassment claim is found to be intentionally false, the Superintendent shall take appropriate action, which may include but is not limited to, suspension with or without pay, demotion, or termination. Any employee shall have the right to pursue a claim of sexual harassment under state or federal law, regardless of the outcome of the School Board’s investigation.
Further in the policy, it states supervisors and other persons designated to accept or investigate complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace shall receive additional education and training. “We do training every year for sexual harassment. All employees go through it. But if you’re a supervisor, you will receiving additional training,” said Michael Lombas, Assistant Superintendent.
Committee member Sheila Joseph asked if accused employees are suspended if they are under investigation. Lombas replied, “Not necessarily. They can be. We actually have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. If there’s a chance for somebody to tamper with evidence or a witness or something, we will usually put them on suspension. If they’re a professional employee, that’s usually suspension with pay. If it’s a support employee, it’s usually without pay.”
“Sometimes the investigation is so cut-and-dry, and so quick, that you don’t even have to send anybody off campus,” said Superintendent Darwan Lazard. “If it’s involved and we have to talk to a bunch of witnesses, etc., it’s going to take time. Sometimes students leave campus early and you might miss them. That might make an investigation drag on.”
The committee approved the policies on sexual harassment and school and student safety.

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