BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - Bossier Parish School Board President Eddy Ray Presley has issued a statement with an apology for comments made last week on social media in response to a petition demanding the firing of Parkway High School principal Nichole Bourgeois.
The petition calls for Bourgeois' removal, citing lawsuits naming her and the district in connection with the suicide of a student who had been bullied.
Presley responded directly to the online petition Saturday, November 9 saying, "Would like to notify change. Org [sic] and the morons in soju [sic] bossier [sic] that the president of the school board does not have the power to fire or hire anyone except for he [sic] superintendent let's start a petition to for bobby jindal [sic] and the founder of change. Org [sic] for using my name without my permission." Presley went on to suggest in the resulting exchange that the petition and a related Facebook page "could be seen as cyber bullying." Presley also directly responding to the petitioners and their supporters on that page, as well.
On Monday, the Bossier Parish School Board issued a statement saying Presley's remarks "do not represent the views of the Board or the School District."
Now, Presley is apologizing for his "choice of words." Here is the full statement sent to local news outlets:
Over the past few days, the news stations have published comments that were made by me on a social media web site. These comments were made by me, as an individual, not by the Bossier Parish School Board. The messages posted were directed at the founder of Change.com and the originators of the petition asking for the termination of Parkway High school's Principal. I would like to apologize to all of my fellow residents of Bossier Parish who may have been offended by any of the statements made. I am extremely passionate about the rights of all employees, students, and families in our parish. We have policies and procedures in place to protect the rights of all citizens. It is my personal feeling that plastering negative stories on social media outlets regarding parents, students, or employees in an attempt to destroy their reputation and/or career is not in the best interest of our parish nor the parties involved. Not only are they detrimental to the individuals involved, but are upsetting to students who must tolerate their negative impact on the school's learning environment. Again, I apologize for my choice of words, but fully stand behind the policies and procedures of the Bossier Parish School Board.
Eddy Ray Presley
Bossier Parish School Board, President
Presley had previously declined to comment on the controversy, unless KSLA News 12 turned over the names of those responsible for launching the petition, which has now gathered nearly 600 signatures.
The group now identifies itself as the Parkway Education Coalition, but remains anonymous, citing fear of retaliation.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson confirmed that they have obtained legal representation, Attorney John Settle. "They believe the principal is a detriment to that school, I believe so as well," Settle explained to KSLA News 12.
Giving the group a name was his first course of action, in an effort to fix their reputation, that he claims was damaged by the superintendent calling the group vindictive. "I believe the group has gotten a sullied reputation as being some kind of rebel group out of control, that has some sort of crazy agenda," Settle said.
"These are parents and alumni of Parkway, they want their school to be a great school. I really think this group is a coalition, an education coalition, that wants to promote Parkway," the attorney explained and added that he has verified at least 90% of names on the petition are real people.
Settle has requested public records from Superintendent DC Machen on all lawsuits involving Bourgeois as principal and copies of invoices for legal services.
"I don't think you would find a CEO, of any business that is the subject of any lawsuits, all of them very serious and still hold the title of CEO," Settle said.
Settle has also requested the number of student suicides since she was assigned to Parkway, the number of student suicide at each other BPS school in that same period. Beginning and ending enrollment numbers for each year for her time at Parkway, and beginning and ending enrollment numbers for each BP school for the same time.
While the coalition's support is undoubtedly growing, not everyone is standing behind their purpose, like South Bossier Resident Jordan Woodle, "I don't think firing her would be justified, especially considering, you've got to think about it, bullying happens in every school," said Woodle.
As a real estate agent, he worries that their efforts may actually hurt South Bossier's growth, "I feel like if this bad publicity continues, people are going to want to stop sending their kids to school there, people are going to stop wanting to move there and you'll actually see a reverse in the real estate cycle," said Woodle.
But the group maintains that protecting the children, is their main intention. Settle has requested to address the board on behalf of the group at the next school board meeting on Nov. 21.
A Bossier School Spokesman tells us they are aware the attorney has made the requests. They say they'll comply as they do with all public records requests.