Home News Education WPSB opposes school visitor bill, discusses lawsuit

WPSB opposes school visitor bill, discusses lawsuit

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HB 766 would contradict current WPSB visitor policy

Caleb Daniel
caleb@press-herald.com

In January 2017, the Webster Parish School Board amended its visitor policy to no longer allow third-party personal service providers, such as counselors and psychiatrists, to conduct services on school grounds, citing safety concerns. Now, a bill in the Louisiana legislature threatens to effectively invalidate this policy.

House Bill 766 would prevent school districts from prohibiting “behavioral health providers” from providing their services to students during school hours if requested by the parents. At the regular meeting Monday, the WPSB unanimously approved a resolution to voice opposition to the bill, urging legislators to vote against it.

The board originally amended its visitor policy because school administrators had cited safety incidents involving unfamiliar people claiming to be counselors and demanding to see children during school hours. The policy sparked some negative feedback in the early months of 2017 as it “weeds out the good along with the bad.” Press-Herald articles from January, March, and May 2017 carry more details and can be found online.

The language of House Bill 766 includes the potential for behavioral health providers to conduct their services during instructional time. In addition to clashing with its policy, the WPSB claims in its resolution that the legislation would “impair school board’s ability to comply with the required number of instructional minutes” for each student.

Superintendent of Schools Johnny Rowland said he called Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, Monday morning regarding the board’s concerns about the bill. He said his was the first call Richard had received about the bill, and the LSBA had not yet taken a stance on it.

“He also said that he would call the author of the bill and tell him our concerns,” Rowland said.

HB 766 already passed the Louisiana House of Representatives 94-0 and awaits a vote in the Senate scheduled for Thursday. Among others, the school board’s resolution of opposition will be sent to all members of the legislature that represent Webster Parish, as well as the governor’s office.

ACLU suit

While not originally on the agenda, an executive session to discuss “the status of and defense strategy in” the ongoing religion lawsuit was added to the end Monday’s agenda and lasted more than half an hour.

Upon returning to regular session, the board voted to take the recommendations of its attorneys, with no further elaboration. The vote passed 8-4. Those voting in opposition were Penny Long (District 12), Margaret Edens (District 1), John Madden (District 6), and Charles Strong (Vice President, District 3).

Accelerated Reader champions

In other news, the board opened its meeting by recognizing students across parish schools who acquired the most Accelerated Reader points this school year.

The winner from each elementary, middle, and high school received a $50 prize, and the overall winner in each age group received a $100 prize. Awards were distributed by Todd Aulds.

The honored winners are as follows:

Overall winners

Copeland Cupples, E.S. Richardson Elementary
Aubri Bonner, North Webster Junior High
Aleix Nipper, Minden High

School winners

Jennifer Scott, Brown Upper Elementary
Quenishia Williams, Browning Elementary
Madison McGraw, Central Elementary
Cheyenne Mace, Doyline High (elementary)
Rayann Mahaffey, Doyline High (junior high)
Shadie HIllman, Doyline High
Riley Brown, Harper Elementary
Malik Harrison, J.L. Jones Elementary
Maya Merritt, Lakeside Junior High
Jayde Burks, Lakeside High
Zaria Stephens, North Webster High
Londyn Thomas, North Webster Lower Elementary
Riley Morgan, North Webster Upper Elementary
Caden Garris, J.A. Phillips Middle School
Arionna Thomas, Webster Junior High

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