A misquote of state policy by an Iberia Parish School Board member has the entire School Board offering an apology, issuing another chance at public comment and scheduling a revote of their stand on book bag requirements.
At a meeting Wednesday night, New Iberia Senior High School sophomore Jack Granger, 15, approached the podium to speak on agenda item D-3, which called for a vote on the recommendation by the Textbook/Education Committee that students in middle and high school throughout Iberia Parish be required to carry clear plastic or mesh book bags next school year.
As Granger approached the podium, IPSB member Robbie LeBlanc said that state policy calls for public comment to be held before the meeting.
Granger went back to his seat without being heard and the board voted to pass the policy with the only “no” vote coming from Rachel Segura.
When Granger returned home and told his mother, Juliet Granger she was disappointed and decided to take action.
“I wasn’t there, I was upset because I was told that we could come to the general meeting and make comments,” Granger said.
“He spent the week planning his speech. He networked with students at other schools in other parishes. He asked his teacher to look over his speech and he went over it with me,” she said.
Then Granger contacted School Board President Dana Dugas and asked for a copy of the minutes, then asked for a clarification of what rules should be followed.
“Actually, I thought I was correct when I allowed him to come up to the podium,” Dugas said. “When I asked for discussion and then they said we have a public comment I said sure and that’s when board member LeBlanc said that’s not policy. He was wrong. But I’m going to take responsibility for that,” he said.
IPSB attorney Wayne Landry, who was not at the meeting at the time of the discussion, clarified the law and made the suggestion the board redo the vote to avoid any possible legal action.
“We’ll have to do it all over again. May 2, we will have our next board meeting and we’ll visit the agenda item fresh from the start,” Dugas said.
Aside from the revote being a legally protective way of handling the matter, both Dugas and Iberia Parish Superintendent of Schools Dale Henderson said they are making the adjustment because it’s the morally correct thing to do.
“It was very unfortunate that it worked out this way but we are going to make it right, “ Henderson said. “We are going to listen to all those who have an opinion at our next board meeting.”
Dugas said because the board does not hear from the public on matters very often, he wants to encourage the public’s chance to participate.
“I was excited. This is only the second time we’ve had someone wanting to speak in the five years I’ve been on the board,” Dugas said.
Henderson explained that in regard to public comments and public meetings there is an added exception for school boards.
Landry provided board members with a copy of La. R. S. 41:15 that states that it requires schools boards to allow public comment for each agenda item prior to any vote on each agenda item.
“Starting at the next meeting, every agenda item that is going to be voted on, I will read the item, ask for public comment first and then I’ll ask if the board has any discussion and then we will vote,” he said.
Granger said when she asked her son how far he wanted her to take this, his response was, “I want to speak.”
“What upset me the most is the person who objected to his speaking is one of the persons who has been on the board the longest. That’s disturbing to me,” Granger said.
She also said all is forgiven and she is grateful that the board has made this change in decision. “It’s a lesson learned for my son to keep trying,” Granger said.
Anyone else with comments on whether or not students should be required to carry clear plastic or mesh bags is welcomed to attend the next regular school board meeting May 2.