NAACP alleges racism inside Pointe Coupee Schools

POINTE COUPEE — The president of the New Roads branch of the NAACP alleged racism inside the Pointe Coupee Parish Schools System during the system’s board meeting Thursday.

Dr. Monica Battley-Fabre, president of the NAACP’s New Roads branch, claims the school system has discriminatory practices and that the system is failing to comply with federal and state laws.

Allegations of systemic racism

Battley-Fabre alleges that the PCPSB is violating the Every Student Succeeds Act and Title I for not operating with a current strategic plan. She says the school system’s strategic plan expired in 2021.

“The concerns are not individual concerns, they are indicative of systemic racism,” Battley-Fabre said during the school board meeting on February 23. “The disproportionate number of African American males excluded from the regular educational setting in this parish is staggering. The disproportionate number of African American students reading below grade level in every school in this district is astounding. The disproportionate number of African American students unable to demonstrate understanding of simple mathematical (problems) in every school in this district is shocking.”

The NAACP says the district’s five year strategic plan accessible to the public online is from 2016-2021. Unfiltered with Kiran independently checked what is accessible on the district’s website, and could only find a strategic plan from 2016-2021.

Battley-Fabre also alleges the district has discriminatory disciplinary and hiring practices. She claims the district is not correctly following students’ individual accommodations plan and that black students are disciplined differently than white students.

“We are asking for an immediate investigation,” Battley-Fabre said. “This investigation should be requested by this board and conducted by a nonpartial, third-party facilitator.”

The NAACP also wants an independent audit of all student accommodation plans.

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“(We are requesting) to freeze all federal funding since you seem not to be able to provide the services you deem necessary for these children to learn,” Battley-Fabre said. “It’s quite easy for this district to send children to PCAP (Pointe Coupee Alternate Program) or to send them home, but it’s very hard for you to teach them how to read.”

“We are our children’s advocates. We are not our children. You will not bully us.”

Dr. Monica Battley-Fabre, president of the NAACP’s New Roads branch

“We are compliant”

The district responded to the allegations made during the meeting. School board members received a packet of information contradicting claims made by the NAACP.

Karla Jack, Pointe Coupee Parish School Board assistant superintendent and federal programs director, told board members that the district is compliant with all federal and state laws.

Jack said the district is monitored annually, and they submit all district policies to various monitoring agencies.

The district’s current strategic plan is based on surveys completed by parents to determine priorities the district needed to focus on, Jack told the board. She says federal dollars were used to complete the survey and compile the data for their strategic plan.

“The state does not give us a specific template that we must use to create a strategic plan nor school improvement plans nor school engagement policies,” Jack said. “They tell us what it needs to include but they leave it up to the districts to decide (how to present it).”

She says what the Pointe Coupee Parish Schools district is using for its strategic plan is acceptable since the state does not give guidelines on what the plan should look like. However, she says the district is working on a more traditional strategic plan.

“We are currently in a pilot with the state department of education, and they are helping us to draft our strategic plan,” said Jack. She told the board they have been meeting once or twice a month since August. A more detailed strategic plan should be completed by May, she said.

Jack told the board that needs assessments have been completed by a third-party at all schools. She also provided the board with family engagement plans and school improvement plans for each school.

Unfiltered with Kiran reached out to superintendent Kim Canezaro about the allegations but have not heard back.

School performance report card

Both sides agree that school performance scores in the district need to be addressed.

Pointe Coupee schools received a ‘C’ grade on the 2022 Louisiana Department of Education’s school performance report. The annual report card grades schools based on performance scores, graduation rates and strength of diploma for high schools.

“Our students lack skills, basic skills,” Jack said. “You heard me say it before, but we have to get back to basics with our children — teaching them how to read, how to do simple math — just so they can access the curriculum.”

Pointe Coupee Parish schools’ received a ‘F’ grade for its ACT data, a ‘C’ grade for its strength of diploma and a ‘D’ grade for graduation rates, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Education.

The district’s score of 61.8 is below the state average of 77.1. The district is ranked one of the lowest in the Baton Rouge area. Only Baker (48.5) and the Baton Rouge recovery school district (48.7) ranked lower, the data shows.

Louisiana has issued school performance scores for public schools since 1999. The data is equated to a letter grade A-F and is based on student achievement data.

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