I have been made aware of several cases in which it appears that the decision not to allow enrollment was made without good cause, and in some cases in defiance of direct court orders.
The first and simplest was a mother from the northern part of the parish who wanted to put her daughter in school in Benton where she works, so she could deliver her to school and pick her up from school. To my untrained eye, it seems that this would fall under Section B below. She was denied outright by Debbie Hays, Supervisor of Special Programs.
Another case resulted from the same reason, with a different twist. The board now requires a provisional custody to an after school caregiver signed by a judge in order to enroll in a different district. In this case, the judge signed the order and Ms. Hays refused to honor it. On inquiring about it, I found that the child has been enrolled due to the intervention of the Superintendent.
The third case involves a custody case in which the judge ordered that the child be enrolled in Benton Elementary School for the school year beginning in August of 2009, and “continuing until further order of this court”. The child was enrolled, attended and was prepared to return in 2010. In June of 2010 Ms. Hays told the parent that a new court order would be required every year, despite the wording of the original order. Rather than argue the point, the person requested, and the judge signed, another order.
Ms. Hays refused to honor the court order and would not enroll the child.
Attorney Lane Pittard filed suit on behalf of the parent, naming the Bossier Parish School Board and Debbie Hays as defendants. The suit asked for injunctive relief from the court and for a temporary restraining order until the matter could be heard on August 26th.
The suit said, among other things,
- “However, Debbie Hays, Supervisor of Special Programs, Bossier Parish School Board, has repeatedly refused to follow said Orders of this Honorable Court and informed the father of the minor child, namely (name omitted), that she would not permit the minor child to be enrolled in Benton Elementary.”
I’m not picking on Debbie Hays, but she is the Supervisor of Special Programs and is charged with dealing with these transfers, and she was the person who refused to honor the court order.
How about Citizens Privilege?
Pittard argued in his petition to the court that the ‘employees privilege’ policy of the board (see 'C' below), in which an employee of the system is allowed to enroll their child at the school where they work, violates the equal protection clause of the State Constitution.
Apparently the folks at the school board haven’t noticed that in the last 40 years or so people are not pleased when public employees enjoy privileges that ordinary citizens don’t have. I personally don't have a problem with teachers enrolling their children in the school where they work. I also don't have a problem with any parent enrolling their child in a school near their work when it is out of the district in which they live.
The board needs to clarify their policy on transfers and make it consistent. Don’t allow certain people to transfer their kids when other people, who meet the same criteria, are denied.
Out-of-District Student Transfer Policy
(from the Students Handbook)
The Bossier Parish School Board’s intent is that all students attend their
neighborhood schools, but the Board permits out-of-district transfers for school
attendance for the following reasons:
A. Majority-to-Minority- A majority-to-minority (M/M) transfer is defined as a transfer by a student attending a school in which his/her race is in the majority chooses to attend another school, where space is available and where his/her race is in the minority.
B. Child Tending Services-(Grades K-6 Only)-A child tending transfer is defined to be the transfer of a K-6 student from one school to another school located in close proximity to any agency or individual (whose address is appropriate for NEW school) providing before school and/or after school care for a student. Before a child tending transfer may be granted, it must be demonstrated to the satisfaction of school system officials that the single parent or both parents work outside the home and that the agency/individual assigned child care responsibilities before and/or after school actually provides such full time services.
C. Employee Privilege-Any employee of the Bossier Parish School Board has the right to request a transfer for his child which would allow the child to attend the school (primary) at which the employee works or the grade level school appropriate in the same attendance zone. Such employee privilege transfer request must be made at the beginning of each school year or at the time of employment at each particular school site and will last for the remainder of that particular school year.
D. Family Hardship-Family hardship is defined as an event or circumstance that would place a student in physical, mental, or academic jeopardy. Appropriate documentation of the hardship must be provided to school system officials. A student’s after-school work or child care concerns is not considered a family hardship nor is participation of the student in school co-curricular or extracurricular activities. A student is allowed to pre-enroll in a school for a period of ninety (90) days if valid proof that a bona fide move into the attendance district will occur before the end of the ninety-day (90) period.
E. Medical Reason- Medical hardship is defined as a severe and/or life threatening medical problem of a student necessitating placement of the student in a particular school for immediate receipt of medical attention. Before a medical hardship transfer will be granted, the child’s treating physician or other medical health care provider must specify in writing why the medical needs of the student mandate transfer of that student to another school. School system officials reserve the right to request additional medical information in the event that they find the information submitted by parents in conjunction with such request to be incomplete or insufficient.
F. Senior Privilege-If, after a student’s eleventh (11th) grade year, his home attendance zone changes, that student has the right to request a transfer back to the school where he completed the eleventh (11th) grade.
G. Intervention-initiated by school system officials. If school system officials feel that it is in the best interest of the school system to administratively transfer a student from one school to another, they shall have the right to do so even in cases where parents have not requested transfer of their children.
Out-of-district transfer applications are available at any school, the Bossier
Parish Resource Center, the Bossier Parish Evaluation Center, or the Bossier Parish
Central Office. Applications must be submitted to the Supervisor of Special Programs
for approval, and approval must be granted prior to enrollment. Requests are approved
for one (1) school year and must be renewed by application each year. In order to
determine the cumulative effect of transfers, the Bossier Parish School Board requires
all transfers to be submitted by the third (3rd) Monday in July, with the exception of
majority to minority transfers. Majority to minority applications must be submitted by the
last student attendance day of the school year. Only bona fide emergency transfers will
be considered after that date.