Last week, student-teacher Derrick Comeaux was fired from Carencro High, and he believes it's an act of retaliation for speaking publicly about the disciplinary issues in the school system.
Dr. Pat Cooper, Superintendent, said there isn't any retaliation.
"It's unfortunate that this happened, but I believe the principal did the right thing and I believe we did the right thing," he said.
Cooper explained that Comeaux was fired for reasons stated by Ken Roebuck. Roebuck, principal of Carencro High, stated in a letter, that he thought comments made to the school board on Wednesday night were threatening, and had no choice but to remove Comeaux from the campus. Cooper also said that Comeaux failed to follow proper protocols when it comes to expressing concerns over issues within a school.
"He was supposed to go to his building manager, which would be his principal," Cooper began, "and most of the time, problems will be solved internally. But, if it can't be solved, then you go to the next person, and then to Sandra Billeaudeau and then to me, the superintendent."
Comeaux said that protocol does not apply to him, because he is not an employee of the school system.
"The protocols for student teachers that have complaints is to go to their advising teacher and then you go to your professor at ULL. Then you continue to move up the chain at ULL and then they contact the people in the hierarchy at the school."
Comeaux said he did follow that protocol, and then brought his concerns to the school board. He mentioned that had he followed the employee protocol, his concerns might never have been heard.
"I believe this would have been different, because this would have been silenced," he expressed.
Either way, Comeaux believes the discipline issues are still the main concern. Cooper expressed that while the school system has a lot of work ahead of them, the complaints are not as bad as they seem.
"Discipline has been a problem forever in public schools and I don't think this year is any worse than any other year."
Comeaux disagreed, "I suggest the superintendent go into some of these schools and sit in the classroom and really see what is going on.'"
Comeaux met with the Dean of Education and the head of the Student Teacher Association at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Monday. He says he will student teach at another school, in another parish, and it was his decision. He also plans to apply for a job in Lafayette Parish once he graduates in May. Cooper says he will be considered for a job with all other applicants, without any discrimination.
Please accept this letter in response to Mr. Ken Roebuck's letter of response to the outrageous reason for my dismissal dated March 23, 2013. It will be my intention through this letter to address several issues which Mr. Roebuck addressed in his response letter to the both of you. Indeed, this letter will set the record straight you both of you, the board members, the Carencro community, and the students; to whom I am so sorry have to witness this experience. Central office personnel as well as the principal to date have given conflicting reasons for my removal. First, it was due to my language, then due to me not following proper protocol, and then to a supposedly making an "implied intent" of some imagined sort that has to this day only been imagined and trumped up in order to cover-up, intimidate, and silence.
First, I will address my dismissal. My dismissal in my opinion and that of a huge and overwhelming majority of the community is being seen as no less a form of retaliation and outright intimidation on the part of the administration to silence me and to cast retribution on me for speaking out. It is an underlying motive that is as clear as a sunshine day. Rest assured, the community has and continues to react unfavorably to you, the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent's handling of this matter, as well as the principal's handling of this matter. On Wednesday, March 20, 2013 I spoke out at the Lafayette Parish School Board meeting with the intent of educating the public on the vast behavioral issues not only at Carencro High, the school I was student teaching at when this occurred, but behavioral issues I had experienced and witnessed first-hand throughout my many hours of observations in some of Lafayette Parish schools.
Therefore, with that being stated, it is my opinion and presuming from the hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of responses I received so far from that of the people of Acadiana, that my dismissal was politically motivated and deemed necessary to silence me. Rest assured, I will not be silenced. I will always be an advocate for and a leader to the students to whom I have and will have the privilege to educate. Mr. Ken Roebuck quoted me as saying, "that if any student on my campus laid a hand on him, then he would have to take matters into his own hands". This is INCORRECT and not what I said.
As you can see, two completely different statements from Mr. Roebuck's letter--- a letter I remind you that is supposedly written by a 25 year education veteran, does not accurately quote me from public record. I have done my homework, and my exact words before the school board were, "And I also told them [Assistant Principal's] that had this student put their hands on me, then we [me and the school administrators] would have addressed it in another manner." (meaning a restraining order). This statement was made in reference to the fact that had the student physically harmed me, as I had told two assistant principals, my advising teacher, and other teachers on campus, I would have in fact taken matters into ‘my own hands' by filing a temporary restraining order/assault charges against the young male student.
Mr. Roebuck's attempt to purposely take out of context my public statement and somehow attempt to persuade anyone that this somehow meant I would in any way fight back with, put my hands on, or respond physically to this or any student's misbehavior is sickening and if anything more it should be seen as insubordination because it is providing false content to the Lafayette Parish Superintendent in writing. It is to say the least very repulsive and is without any type of merit whatsoever. Many teachers in the audience the night I made the above comments and who knew of the situation when it happened in the classroom, all know my comments did not have nor ever had the intent of harm but rather the intent to show the administration that if they failed to continue to act and address the situation, then the matter would in fact be handled in another manner—that being a restraining order being obtained against the student. Mr. Roebuck indicates I was removed also because I said that I was scared to be at the school. While I had concern at times for my safety as well as does some other employees, the passion to make a difference for me was much more endearing than any possible threat.
In short order, Mr. Roebuck's comments that he asked me to leave is incorrect. Mr. Roebuck came into and interrupted a professional development meeting which I was in with several teachers and tapped my shoulder and told me to come with him now. As I got to the door he asked, "Do you have any belongings on my campus?" I replied to his question with, "Yes sir, I have my book bag and binder back in class." I then asked, "What is this about?" and he replied, "call your student advisor!" He told me the armed officer's name and that he would be escorting me off campus immediately. He then told me to "You need to get your belongings and get the hell off of my campus." and stormed out the building through a nearby doorway. Since this was in fact done in the hall, possibly in front of students, I am sure you all will certainly not agree this was the best display of professional behavior on his part in front of possible passing by students. If anything, the difficulty Mr. Roebuck supposedly encountered according to Ms. Billeaudeau's comments to the Advocate was likely when he came to get me in which he was having difficulty trying to control his own anger and rage with the situation. His behavior and demeanor did not impress those who witnessed, some of whom are educational veterans in the education field.
Fourth, I have spoken to University officials in the College of Education. While Mr. Roebuck did contact them that he was removing me, it is not as Mr. Roebuck states it to you both in his response letter. An email that was read to me by Dr. Carlson, Dean of the College of Education, stated that they acknowledged Mr. Roebuck had the right in his capacity as a principal to remove someone from his campus. From my conversation and the email that was read to me, there was no agreement with Mr. Roebuck that I had done anything warranting expulsion from campus, but only an acknowledgment that the principal was within his right to actually ask me to leave. Again, another example of glorifying and taking out of text the facts to the matter.
Mr. Roebuck states in his response, "It has always been my intention to protect the individuals on my campus to the best of my ability." If this is in fact the case, I invite you and the public to audit the disciplinary books of teachers at Carencro High School and ask for the statistics on absences, tardiness, and incidents. This is public record. There are numbers of students with a multitude of referrals, all of whom are still in the classroom. In my opinion, this does not reflect a stable and safe environment learning environment that Mr. Roebuck states exist at his school. There are also a number of unwarranted and far-fetching allegations against Mr. Mark Babineaux and the dissemination of information, information in which ultimately Mr. Roebuck is responsible to protect and safeguard, after all that seems to be his intention his response to you both.
In ending, I want you to know I thank my parents for their support. I thank the board members who have publically and privately supported me. I thank some of the many number of Carencro teachers who have supported me privately out of fear of retribution. I also thank all of the teachers from Lafayette, St. Landry, Acadia, Avoyelles, Vermillion, St. Martin, Iberia, Pointe Coupee, Evangeline, Rapides, Calcasieu, Jeff Davis, East/West Baton Rouge, Livingston, Iberville, and Orleans parishes for their support. I thank the teachers who have reached out as far as North Carolina, to Missouri, to Colorado in support of my situation. I thank the University and my professors who have supported me---all knowing my cause is justified and has been meant with all good intention. Lastly I thank my students for their words of encouragement and prayers.
To the community and Lafayette Parish School Board, please know my intentions were with my students at heart. Before I spoke, I asked the Lord to guide my words so that they would not fall on deaf ears. I believe my words now have resounded in the hearts of the people of Acadiana. It is only my hope, Mr. Cooper and Mrs. Billeaudeau that this witch hunt stop immediately. Publically, I am calling on you, Mr. Pat Cooper to address this issue. End your silence on the matter and make this situation right. The public and the students expect you to do just that. The exercise of power in which you both have should never be flaunted, but rather used in the best interests of the people, never to promote one's own agenda even in the face of opposition. Rightfully, at this point, I hope you all realize this is not the view of the public.
The public through blogs and other commentary media has approved of my actions and is supportive of me, not Mr. Roebuck and the actions or lack of action thereof from the two of you. It is clear if you listen to the public sentiment, the might of what's believed to be right is on my side. The people have voiced their opinion, and as servants of those people you are obligated to listen. The safety and caring for students is always the number one priority and education is second. Both must be present in order for success to exist. Mr. Superintendent and Mrs. Assistant Superintendent, work with the board, the teachers, and the students. Listen to them and fix our schools. Please, do it for our kids!
Sincerely,Derrick Jude ComeauxStudent Teacher-InternLafayette Parish