the Bossier Parish School Board
In what is certainly a first for northwest Louisiana (and is a sign of the times), a social media campaign is being waged by south Bossier residents against Parkway Principal (Dr.) Nichole Bourgeois and the Bossier Parish School Board (BPSB). Utilizing a online website change.org, over four hundred Bossier residents and Parkway alumni have electronically signed a petition to have the controversial Bourgeois ousted from her job. This brouhaha has no signs of letting up, and the “petition posse” may be seeking legal action in the near future.
The backdrop of the story is three serious incidences that have, to date, been whitewashed by school officials. Bourgeois made national news last fall for having Five Oaks High School football coach arrested prior to a playoff football game at Parkway High School. Litigation has been filed by the coach against Bourgeois and the BPSB over that incident. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association sanctioned Parkway by denying the school the ability to host a playoff game this year.
Bourgeois is also the key player in litigation filed last spring against BPSB by the family of a student who committed suicide. The suit alleges that Bourgeois and the school district did nothing to protect the child from “constant bullying and harassment” by fellow students. This suit is scheduled to go to trial in November of next year.
Another suit was filed earlier this month naming Bourgeoisas a defendant along with the school’s nurse coordinator and the BPSB. This litigation is a “whistle blower” action, alleging reprisals against the plaintiff after she expressed concerns about a student who she says was bullied and later committed suicide. This litigation seeks punitive damages for harassment and retaliation.
The BPSB president Eddie Ray Presley poured fuel on the Parkway fire by referring to the online petitioners as “morons in South Bossier.” The BPSB quickly issued a statement distancing the Board from Presley’s remarks, stating that the “remarks do not represent the views of the Board or the School district…” Bossier School Superintendent D.C. Machen also released a statement that he “would not validate grievances, personal attacks or agendas posted in social media sites about Dr. Bourgeois or any administrator or employee of Bossier Parish Schools by commenting on them.” Machen also made it clear that under state law he, not the School Board, would decide Bourgeois’ fate.
Many parents believe that the state of affairs at Parkway High School is not the rosy picture that Machen and the BPSB have painted. A public records request has been made to Machen for legal fees expended by the BPSB on all litigation involving Bourgeois. Another public records request is for the number of suicides at Parkway High School while she has been assigned to that school, and the number of suicides at all other Bossier Parish Schools during this time period. A last public record request has also been made for the beginning and ending school enrollments for the same time interval at all Bossier Parish Schools, along with the drop out and transfer numbers for each school for these years.
The website change.org has many comments about Bourgeois that are not complimentary, to say the least. Only those persons who will publically “sign” list their name can have comments posted. Most parents of Parkway students fear repercussions against their children and thus have only “signed” the petition without posting comments. Their names are not made public, but are available to the petition organizers.
At some juncture the BPSB and Machen must deal with the uproar over Burgeois. Parents can express their dissatisfaction in many ways, – – withdrawal of financial support for school athletics and organizations, recall petitions against school board members, and possible litigation against Machen and the Board for malfeasance in office. Machen and the Board have enjoyed a long rope by Bossier residents who rubber stamped an excessive bond package and have rarely held Board staff or school officials to task. This time its looking like south Bossier, which is often treated as the red headed step child by Bossier governmental bodies, will demand to be recognized and not ignored, – – and rightly so.