BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Members of the East Baton Rouge School Board and a religious group were named in a civil lawsuit related to a Day of Hope in September 2022.
Last September, EBR Schools hosted Day of Hope, a career fair created to help students explore options after high school. Other issues — such as sex, religion, and suicide — also were discussed.
Two mothers are suing along with their children, one of whom is still a minor. They filed a lawsuit this week seeking compensation for “severe mental anguish and distress” as a result of the school board’s event, which they called a bait and switch for a church service. In addition to traumatizing communications based on gender, they said the event led to the intimidation of nonbinary, transgender and LGBTQ+ students.
According to the suit, school board members advertised the event to parents as a college career fair with breakout sessions, guest speakers, free food and live music. Once students arrived, the guest speakers were pastors or religious figures.
When students, parents and volunteers arrived, according to the complaint, they realized the event was not as advertised and took the form of a Christian church service.
The suit alleges that Narcisse and Sterling “were engaged in a conspiracy to expose public school children to overtly sectarian and religious experiences directly through the East Baton Rouge School System and EBRSB, often without the knowledge or permission of the students’ parents or guardians” for years.
The plaintiffs allege that the event separated the students by gender, which was hostile toward transgender and nonbinary students. LGBTQ+ students reportedly were openly harassed with no consequences, and at times encouragement from, the adults nearby.
According to the suit, the boys competed in physical challenges for prize money. Girls, meanwhile, “were graphically lectured by pastors and other religious figures about virginity, rape, abuse, and suicide and were even told to ‘“’forgive’”’ their rapists and abusers.”
During the separated talks, students were reportedly left outside in extreme heat without enough to drink for everyone, per the lawsuit, and lunch wasn’t provided until students handed in a voter registration card.
The event reportedly ended with an invitation for students to dedicate their lives to Jesus.
“The evidence collected through news reports and from students and parents affected by this event is plain and clear: you conspired with a local Christian church to fraudulently induce minors to attend a religious service where they were discriminated against based on their gender, subjected to harmful and inappropriate discussions and religious proselytizing, exposed to an environment that condoned bullying, and prevented from eating lunch unless they provided private information. You did this all under color of state law,” said attorney Evan Bergeron of Winston Bergeron Law Firm.
The East Baton Rouge School Board declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Those named as defendants in the lawsuit include:
- The entire East Baton Rouge School Board.
- EBRPSS Superintendent Sito Narcisse.
- EBRPSB President Dadrius Lanus.
- Michael Gaudet, District 7.
- Mark Bellue, District 1.
- Carla Powell, Vice President, District 3.
- Shasonnie Steward, District 4.
- Cliff Lewis, District 5.
- Nathan Rust, District 6.
- Patrick Martin, District 9.
- Katie Kennison, the former District 8 representative.
- Tramelle Howard, former board member.
- Dawn Collins, former board member.
- Evelyn Ware-Jackson, former board member.
- Jill Dyason, former board member.
- Connie Bernard, former board member.
- David Tatman, former board member.
- 29:11 Academy.
- Tremaine Sterling.