BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) ––– One parent is crowdfunding support for East Baton Rouge School System (EBRPSS) parents to bring the school system to court after the Day of Hope career fair brought their kids to church. 

The event received significant criticism online from parents, chaperones, and students. That’s when Mary-Patricia Wray started the Day of Nope website and a GoFundMe page to collect evidence and raise funds for potential lawsuits against the school system in response.

Wray said dozens of parents have reached out, saying they “did not give informed consent for [their kids] to attend an event that had the components this event had.”

Despite her kids not attending the event, Wray said she wanted to do her part to hold the administration accountable, “I just wanted to do what I could to try to show the students and the educators […] that there are people who are going to stand up and make sure that the district takes responsibility when it makes mistakes.”

According to a memorandum, the Day of Hope event was part of a new partnership with 29:11 Academy, costing the school system $9,800.  

EBRPSS Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse and 29:11 Academy Founder Tremaine Sterling joined us on our morning show ahead of the event. 

Sterling explained, “Day of Hope established about a decade ago to bring students from all over the parish together to give them exactly that, hope, which is an acronym H. O. P. E. Helping Others Push Every day.” He said the event would be a collegiate career fair and would focus on connecting students to community resources. 

Dr. Narcisse said the Day of Hope event would build on existing workforce development programs.

But feedback online tells a different story. The School System’s Facebook page was flooded with comments, claiming parents were misled and the career fair was more of a religious event and traumatized students. 

“There are children who say this event harmed them because it triggered issues about suicide that they weren’t prepared to confront without experts there to support them,” said Wray.

EBRPSS released a statement following the Day of Hope backlash:

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System has partnered with 29:11 Mentoring Families to provide additional support services for students in our district. One of these initiatives is the “Day of Hope” event. The event was structured to assist students with exploring what options are available after high school, along with allowing students to participate in breakout sessions and student-initiated activities and projects. By providing entertaining activities with an educational focus, this event was an elevation of a traditional college and career fair. Students were provided with lunch and a rare opportunity to mingle with their peers from other high schools in one setting. We look forward to seeing what our over 2,100 student participants will continue to achieve with the resources and knowledge gained from this event. 

LETRECE R. GRIFFIN, CHIEF OF COMMUNICATIONS & FAMILY ENGAGEMENT AT EBR SCHOOLS

With the allegations gaining national attention, we contacted the school system for comment.

The school system’s initial comment was, “We do not have any further update to provide at the moment.”

But on the evening of Tuesday, September 27, hours after this story aired on WGMB/WVLA, EBR Schools issued a second statement regarding its ‘Day of Hope’ event.

The statement can be found below.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System aims to provide an inclusive, safe, supportive environment where students can express themselves without fear of unfair treatment. Bullying of any kind is not tolerated.

The School System agreed to work with 29:11 Academy for the purpose of providing a College and Career Day with supporting activities to EBR high school seniors. The event was held on September 20, 2022.

District leadership was unaware of any religious aspects of this event. District leadership did not approve any deviation from the planned schedule. The School System has received complaints following the event. The School System is taking these community concerns seriously and conducting appropriate follow up.

Our focus will continue to be student-centric as we review processes and work to enrich the lives of our students.

EBR Schools

Wray said several parents are meeting with lawyers within the coming week to determine if they have a case.