UNITED STATES NEWS

Louisiana public school principal apologizes after punishing student for dancing at a party

Oct 9, 2023, 12:04 PM | Updated: 1:04 pm

WALKER, La. (AP) — A Louisiana public school principal has apologized and requested leave for punishing a student and questioning her religious beliefs after he saw a video of her dancing at an off-campus party.

The 17-year-old student government president and scholarship candidate was videotaped dancing at an off-campus party following Walker High School’s Sept. 30 Homecoming festivities. A hired DJ took the video and posted it on social media. Three days later, Jason St. Pierre, principal of the public high school near the state capital of Baton Rouge, told the student she would be removed from her position with the student government association and that he would no longer recommend her for college scholarships.

At a meeting in his office with the assistant principal, St. Pierre told the student she wasn’t “living in the Lord’s way,” her mother said, according to The Advocate. He printed out Bible verses with highlighted sections and “questioned who her friends were and if they followed the Lord,” the news outlet reported.

In a statement published Sunday on the Livingston Parish Public Schools district Facebook page, St. Pierre reversed course. Citing the significant public attention the episode had received and more time to consider his decision, the principal apologized to the student’s family and undid his previous disciplinary plans. He also addressed his invocation of religion.

“Finally, during my conversation with (the student) regarding the dance party, the subject of religious beliefs was broached by (the student) and myself,” St. Pierre wrote. “While that conversation was meant with the best intentions, I do understand it is not my responsibility to determine what students’ or others’ religious beliefs may be – that should be the responsibility of the individual.”

The student and her mother said St. Pierre brought up religion, not her. The mother and daughter have also said the deadline for her scholarship application was on Oct. 3, and questioned whether St. Pierre could have reinstated his scholarship endorsement sooner, The Advocate reported.

In a statement Monday, district officials said St. Pierre had requested to take leave for the remainder of the school year.

“Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre has requested to take leave for the remainder of the 2023-2024 school year,” said Livingston Parish Public Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy. “The district office is awaiting his paperwork to process his request.”

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Louisiana public school principal apologizes after punishing student for dancing at a party