Feb 21, 2014 4:46 PM by Dave Fields
A sixth grader's family alleges that Gueydan High School Principal Luddy Herpin committed battery Wednesday against the student, Gueydan Police Chief Kayla Henry confirms.
Henry said that, before 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, her office received a battery complaint against Herpin. Henry said that the school does have a resource officer on a daily basis, but the principal reported that the resource officer was not involved in the alleged incident that day.
"We're going to collect everything we can, and continue the investigation," Henry said.
According to the sixth grader's aunt, the alleged battery against her nephew, whom she says is a special education student, occurred following a group photograph in the school's gym.
The alleged incident occurred after the male student was asked, along with a number of other students, to remove their identification cards while taking a group picture in the school gym. After the group photo, the boy's family alleges, the group of students walked ahead of the principal down one of the school's hallways.
According to the complaint made by the family, the school's principal began yelling at the boy to "put the ID on" and then "put his hands around the boy's neck," reports the boy's aunt, who asked not to be named in the story.
According to Herpin, the students were told to put their ID's on and all students other than the student complainant had complied, said the principal. The principal said the student was disrespectful in the way the boy had responded to Herpin's directions in the school hallway.
"He was the only one without his ID on and he was twirling his ID and I looked at him and said, 'son, put your ID on.' He walked five feet ahead and I said, 'son, you need to put your ID on.' He walked another 10 feet and stared me down," said Herpin.
Herpin says that his discipline of the boy was witnessed by four teachers, three of whom he gathered statements from following the incident. A fourth teacher, Herpin said, came forward later to make a statement.
It was at this point that Herpin says the student put on his identification card. Herpin said he approached the boy "within three feet" and told the boy, "Come see." Herpin said he then "opened his hand and turned to nearby teachers to ask them, "Did you see what I just saw?" and put his "hand on the boy's shoulder" for less than a second.
The sixth grader's account, according to his aunt, differs. The boy's aunt stated that the boy simply looked at the principal in a confused manner, as he wondered why Harpin allegedly "was yelling at him." According to the boy's aunt, the boy alleges that the principal "put his hands around his neck."
Herpin emphatically denied the allegation, saying that, at most, he put "a few fingers on the boy's shoulder." Herpin compared his contact with the boy as "not very long" and "not even a nudge." Herpin said that he touched the boy's shoulder in the same manner a person would while setting a child for a photograph.
"At no time did I grab him around the neck. I have three teachers' statements that say otherwise," said the principal. Herpin said that the student's disrespect continued as they continued to walk beside each other down the hallway to the school's office. Herpin described the boy's behavior as "belligerent" and "disrespectful." Herpin said the boy expressed his displeasure by yelling and by giving intimidating looks.
Herpin said that he attempted to explain to the boy what he had done wrong, but the boy replied, "I was just looking around." Herpin said he also told the student that he was disrespectful, to which the boy responded, "That's your opinion." The principal then said he told the sixth grader that he "would have to suspend him." The boy, Herpin says, told him, "Go ahead. I really don't care."
The VPSS official suspension form, faxed to KATC by the child's family, reads that the 12-year-old was suspended for two infractions: "treats an authority with disrespect" and "willful disobedience". The student's mother signed a note at the bottom of the form that reads "I will appeal this suspension."
Herpin told KATC that the boy's family has contacted the school after previous incidents that, he said, ultimately were "proven groundless."
The aunt reported that, after reporting the incident to police, she and the boy's mother appealed the boy's two-day suspension and reported the incident to both Vermilion Parish Schools System (VPSS) Asst. Supt. Paul Hebert and to the school system's Child Welfare and Attendance department. An appeals hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday, Feb. 26, said the aunt.
Brad Prudhomme with VPSS Child Welfare and Attendance would not confirm the incident of alleged battery, but did confirm that a suspension appeals hearing is set for next Wednesday. No other VPSS officials knowledgeable of the situation were available for comment.
The student's family attached a statement to the faxed suspension form.
"No student should be threaten(ed), scared, yelled at, belittled, cornered, or harmed by any educators nor school staff during their educational environment," reads an excerpt from the family statement authored by the boy's aunt.
As of Friday afternoon, Herpin said that, to his knowledge, police had not yet contacted him or any of his teachers who may have witnessed the incident.