School board member responds to Walker High incident: ‘This is ridiculous’

WALKER — Kaylee Timonet’s family isn’t the only one opposed to Walker High Principal Jason St. Pierre’s actions following a video that surfaced on social media of the teen dancing.

St. Pierre stripped Timonet of her title as the Walker High School student government president and her endorsement for a scholarship was retracted after a video surfaced on social media of her dancing at a homecoming after-party.

The video in question shows Timonet, 17, dancing behind a friend “twerking” at a private party where Timonet’s mother was present on Sept 30, 2023. The after homecoming party took place at at Livingston Parish Country Club.

Timonet has a 4.0 grade point average and represents the school in numerous clubs. Prior to the video being released, Timonet was the student government association’s president. That role has since been stripped. She remains the Beta Club president. The teen tutors kids and was just awarded outstanding volunteer in the Baton Rouge area.

‘Come on, Livingston Parish, y’all are better than this’

Livingston Parish School Board member Kellee Hennessy Dickerson does not serve the Walker High area, but she said she has fielded a ton of calls on the situation.

She said when she first heard what happened, she couldn’t believe it because Timonet is an excellent student.

“We’ve got a lot of students who do cause trouble in our school system,” Dickerson said. We’ve got problems with bullying. We’ve got problems with vaping and drugs and kids with disciplinary actions. This is an amazing young lady. She was not on school time and was dancing. I’m not condoning the style of dance, but this is ridiculous. This is harsh and unfair.”

Dickerson admitted she’s had conversations with board members Jeffery Cox and Katelyn Lockhart Cockerham, who serve the Walker district. She’s also reached out to the administration.

“I have been inundated with calls from parents to teachers and principals from other parishes,” Dickerson recalled. “They said, ‘Come on, Livingston Parish, y’all are better than this.’ I have given my two cents to the Walker board members. School board members are not over principals or employees. I think this needs to be overturned. It’s a terrible ruling. I think it sets a terrible precedent.”

She said St. Pierre has done an ‘amazing’ job at Walker High, but this was a bad decision.

“I think there comes a time and a place for reprimanding our kids, but she’s an exemplary student,” Dickerson said. “I do not think her dancing after school at her home with her parents there is a problem. I have a problem with that. We’re not talking about causing harm to anyone. The child was dancing.

“I’m a Christian, I believe in morals, respect, and integrity, but we also cannot cross a line,” she added. “Kids have to be kids. Who am I to judge someone? However, I don’t think this is the appropriate action, in my humble opinion.”

Cox said Friday afternoon that he found out about the incident Thursday.

“I just found out about it yesterday,” he said in a conversation with UWK. “I’m just hearing something of it. I’m trying to talk to the principal an I haven’t spokent to the parents yet. I can’t really comment on it.”

Response from Superintendent Murphy

Superintendent Murphy responded to UWK‘s questions about the actions related to Timonet and if there are any pending disciplinary actions against Principal St. Pierre.

This was his response:

Due to laws protecting student privacy and employee privacy, I cannot speak publicly on this issue. Please see below.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.  Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record.

Federal law and Louisiana state law require public school records be kept confidential, ensuring they aren’t unnecessarily disclosed. The two main federal laws regarding the privacy of school records are the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). Louisiana schools must follow these laws and can’t disregard them because federal laws trump state laws.

A. No school employee shall be denied access to his personnel file. The contents of a school employee’s personnel file shall not be divulged to third parties absent the express written consent of the school employee, except when ordered by a court or by subpoena, and no school system employee other than the personnel file custodian or the superintendent of schools for the system, or the designee of either who shall be a school system employee shall be allowed access to a school employee’s personnel file without the school employee’s express written consent, unless that employee is charged with the duty of supervising that particular school employee’s performance. In the case that a personnel file should be accessed by the superintendent or someone designated by him, the employee whose file was so accessed shall receive written notice of the fact and the name and title of the person who was permitted access. All persons permitted access under this Section shall maintain the confidentiality of those documents in the file which are not matters of public record.

Superintendent Joe Murphy

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