No outside entity can use school facilities for monetary gain – that was the opinion of Webster Parish School Board Attorney Jon Guice who explained the school system’s visitors’ policy Monday.

He talked about the board’s policy on third party use of school facilities, and said the board must have a set of rules and regulations on third party use as well as a facilities use agreement.

“The things that we think are traditional, the government is saying we have to have some type of agreement with them,” he said. “You have a policy that says how you will use your facilities. The agreement that you have set in your policy is that no one can use your facilities to run a private business out of your school district.”

Guice’s comments came on the heels of the board’s decision in January to revise its visitors’ policy, effectively shutting out counseling services or any third party counselors not contracted with the board. Former Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls said the policy change came about to strengthen safety for students.

Licensed Professional Counselor Kristi Mayfield approached the board in March with an option that would allow the school system to have third party counselors in the schools through a memorandum of understanding.

“It’s unfair to punish those that absolutely need and want services,” she said. “I get a lot of children who have truancy issues, and I work hand in hand with the family. Their grades are down, they’re not at school, and I think it’s very sad.”

The Louisiana Department of Education shows Webster Parish’s student population is home to 70.5 percent of at-risk children.

She explained at the end of 2018, a counseling grant worth $1.3 million, will run out. With that grant came counselors for J.A. Phillips Middle School, E.S. Richardson Elementary School, J.L. Jones Elementary and Central Elementary School.

LDOE, the Department of Justice, the Department of Children’s and Family Services and the Department of Health and Hospitals are collaborating to make sure students are getting the services they need, whether it is a counselor or a referral from a court system. The visitors’ policy appears to go against that collaboration, Mayfield said.

“It doesn’t cost the school system a dime,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a partnership, and looking at each child in the parish and helping them early on instead of waiting until they get four suspensions or two misdemeanors. Then it’s too late. But nobody is willing to do that at the Webster Parish School Board. We’re going to keep failing, because nobody up there is willing to change and look at why all this was created to begin with.”

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