Louisiana news briefs

From The Associated Press.

ACLU accuses La. school of religious harassment
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is suing a school board in Louisiana, alleging officials at one of its schools harassed a sixth-grader because of his Buddhist faith and that the district routinely pushes Christian beliefs.
The lawsuit was filed against the Sabine Parish School Board Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Shreveport on behalf of Scott and Sharon Lane and their three children. According to the complaint from the ACLU and its Louisiana chapter, the Lanes enrolled their son — a lifelong Buddhist of Thai descent — in Negreet High School and he quickly became the target of harassment by the school’s staff.
“Public schools should be welcoming places for students of all backgrounds,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “No child should be harassed and made to feel like an outsider in his own classroom, and students should not have to endure school officials constantly imposing their religious beliefs on them while they are trying to learn.”
In addition to the school board, the lawsuit names as defendant Superintendent Sara Ebarb, Negreet High Principal Gene Wright and science teacher Rita Roark. An office worker who answered the phone at the district Wednesday said Ebarb was out of town and unavailable for comment. A message on an automated voice mail system for a home number listed for Ebarb in Shreveport wasn’t immediately returned.
The lawsuit said Roark has “repeatedly taught students that the earth was created by God 6,000 years ago, that evolution is ‘impossible’ and that the Bible is ‘100 percent true.’
“She also regularly features religious questions on her tests such as “Isn’t it amazing what the ______ has made!!!!”
When the Lanes’ son “did not write in Roark’s expected answer (LORD), she belittled him in front of the rest of the class.”
While studying other religions, she also has told students that Buddhism is “stupid,” the lawsuit said.
Beyond that, according to the complaint, the school regularly incorporates official Christian prayer into class and school events and scrolls Bible verses on an electronic marquee in front of the school that greets students as they enter the building.
When the Lanes objected, Ebarb told them that “this is the Bible belt” and suggested they change their son’s faith.
“The school district’s administration — all the way up to the superintendent of schools — not only knows about these activities, but endorses and encourages all of this,” the lawsuit said.
The ACLU also asked the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the school system.

Outdoor fire claims
life in Washington Parish
FRANKLINTON (AP) — Just hours after the State Fire Marshal urged Louisiana residents to be cautious when burning outdoors because of dry and windy conditions, Washington Parish investigators were called to probe a wild fire that claimed the life of a 63-year-old man.
At about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Franklinton firefighters were dispatched to a home and found several piles of debris burning in the yard along with the body of Alvin Brumfield, who lived there.
Neighbors told investigators Brumfield, who has limited mobility, was seen raking leaves about 15 minutes before the fire was reported. They said the fire seemed to be moving toward Brumfield’s home.
Authorities say evidence leads investigators to believe the victim’s clothes caught fire causing his fatal injuries.
An autopsy is planned to determine a cause of death.

Judge allows subpoena
for records from newspaper
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal magistrate has allowed a defense attorney to subpoena records from a New Orleans news organization about comments anonymously posted on its website, the latest response to a scandal that led to the resignation of the region’s top federal prosecutor.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson on Tuesday approved the subpoena request by a lawyer for former New Orleans Affordable Homeownership executive director Stacey Jackson, who was indicted last year on federal charges including theft and bribery.
A Times-Picayune report on Wednesday said the news organization’s usual policy is to keep such information private “to the extent possible.”
Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten resigned in December 2012 after two of his top deputies acknowledged posting anonymous comments on nola.com about cases handled by their New Orleans-based office.
Castaing wants to know whether other law-enforcement personnel who haven’t been unmasked yet have posted anonymous comments on nola.com related to his client’s case.

Hundreds arrested in Acadiana drug roundup
LAFAYETTE (AP) — Lafayette’s Metro Narcotics Task Force and law enforcement agencies across Acadiana cooperated on a three-day operation to target areas of suspected crime and drug activity.
The operation, which ran from Jan 14 to Jan. 17, resulted in 251 arrests, 179 citations and almost $97,000 of recovered narcotics.
Agencies also recovered more than $34,000 worth of stolen property and more than $21,000 worth of property, such as vehicles and money, used in illegal activities.
One vehicle and four guns were seized.
Officials say cocaine and methamphetamine were the top two drugs seized, with more than $52,000 in cocaine recovered and more than $26,000 in methamphetamine.
Marijuana accounted for more than $12,000 of narcotics confiscated.

Police: DNA leads
to arrest in 2 home invasions
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Baton Rouge police say DNA has tied a New Iberia man to at least two break-ins in a string of home invasions targeting elderly women.
The suspect, 35-year-old Vorris Mouton, was taken into custody late Monday after the State Police Crime Lab determined Mouton had left his DNA profile at a home on Dec. 22.
Authorities say Mouton threatened to kill an elderly woman in the home and demanded she direct him to her safe, but he fled the scene after a brief struggle and did not take any of the victim’s money.
On Tuesday, Mouton was re-arrested on counts of aggravated burglary and sexual battery after the crime lab linked him to a home invasion Friday.

Contract amended to require $500M in savings ideas
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A company getting $4.2 million from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration for an efficiency study has agreed to amend its contract to require the firm to find $500 million in savings ideas for the state.
The contract amendment with consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal was released late Tuesday.
Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols initially had said the savings expectations were included in the bid request and that it was legally binding. But the $500 million figure was not in that request. Nichols’ spokesman later said the commissioner misspoke.
The contract addition comes after lawmakers raised concerns about whether the review was a waste of time.
Nicholls said the contract was amended out of “an abundance of caution.”
The savings figure also wasn’t included in the initial contract with Alvarez & Marsal. It was included in a cover letter the company submitted with its bid proposal to the Jindal administration, and Nichols said she believed the consultant was bound by the requirement that it identify $500 million in savings initiatives.
In a statement, she
Nicholls said the contract was amended out of “an abundance of caution.”
The contract addition comes after lawmakers raised concerns about whether the review was a waste of time.
The firm will wrap up its recommendations by mid-April, after four months of work. Nichols said she was confident the consulting company’s ideas will identify savings for the state that far outstrip the cost of its contract.
Alvarez & Marsal’s contract with the state runs through 2016. However, if the Jindal administration wants more work beyond the final set of recommendations due in April, the price tag would grow beyond the $4.2 million the company is slated to receive for its review.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

Franklin Banner-Tribune
P.O. Box 566, Franklin, LA 70538
Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

Morgan City Daily Review
P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

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