Louisiana news briefs
La. food stamps stripped because of overspending
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana’s social services department said Monday it has stripped food stamps from six people who deliberately overspent their monthly benefits when the electronic service was down in October and was working to disqualify another 25 people.
Details of possible fraud also have been shared with local law enforcement, for district attorneys to decide if they want to prosecute people for knowingly breaching the limits on their monthly food stamp benefits.
The Department of Children and Family Services said it continues to work through the administrative hearing process, targeting 500 people out of 12,000 transactions that overspent available food stamp benefits four months ago during the system crash.
Several Louisiana retailers allowed food stamp recipients to make unlimited purchases on Oct. 12, when the electronic card system was down and balances couldn’t be checked. News reports showed carts at some stores piled high with groceries that were abandoned after the system was back online.
Police: Children in car while mom smokes pot
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Baton Rouge police have arrested a 30-year-old Mississippi woman after they found her smoking marijuana in the car with her two young children, then leaving them in the car while she went shopping in Cortana Mall.
The Advocate reports Jasmin Washington, of Natchez, Miss., was booked Sunday with child desertion, contributing to the delinquency of juveniles and possession of Schedule I drugs.
An off-duty police officer working security at the mall found the two children, ages 2 and 4, sleeping inside.
When security made a page through the Mall speaker systems, police say Washington walked up to the security officer, smelling of marijuana.
Attorneys work to resolve charges in child’s death
BATON ROUGE — A prosecutor and a defense lawyer say they’re negotiating to resolve state charges against a Baton Rouge man whose 4-year-old son accidentally shot and killed himself with his father’s gun two years ago.
Shawn Dean Sr. is charged in state court with negligent homicide and felon in possession of a firearm in the Feb. 8, 2012, death of Shawn Dean Jr.
The elder Dean pleaded guilty in federal district court in October 2012 to drug and weapons charges but has not been sentenced
Letter raises question
of creationism in class
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A letter to a newspaper has prompted the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to ask the Caddo Parish School Board to investigate whether any of its teachers are illegally teaching creationism.
The letter that appeared on the editorial page of The Times of Shreveport was from a woman who identified herself as a fifth-grade teacher. She said she presents both evolution and creationism and, when asked, tells her students her beliefs.
ACLU Louisiana director Marjorie Esman responded with an open letter released Monday saying the woman appears to be illegally promoting her personal religious beliefs in a public classroom.
School officials did not return a Monday morning call seeking confirmation that the author of the newspaper letter was a Caddo public school teacher.
“My job is to present both, tell what I personally believe, only because they ask, and they always, always ask, and let them decide, but I will never ever teach what goes against so many of these children’s beliefs, morals and what their parents have worked so hard to instill in their hearts,” the teacher wrote in the Feb. 6 letter.
Esman’s response notes a 1987 Supreme Court opinion striking down a Louisiana law that required schools that teach evolution to give equal time to creationism. The law was struck down as an effort by government to promote religion.
The teacher goes beyond her First Amendment right to freedom of expression if she does what she describes in her letter, Esman said.
“While teachers and school officials enjoy the full range of religious-liberty rights in their personal capacities, they are not entitled to use their government positions to promote and impose their personal religious beliefs on students,” Esman wrote.
Woman killed in Iberville crash
WHITE CASTLE (AP) — State police continue to investigate a single vehicle crash that claimed the life of a 62-year-old Donaldsonville woman.
The accident happened Monday on La. 1 south of White Castle in Iberville Parish.
Trooper Jared Sandifer identified the victim has Gail M. Smith.
Sandifer says Smith was southbound when her SUV ran off the road, struck a culvert and overturned several times.
Sandifer says Smith was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.
Southern won’t extend chancellor’s contract
BATON ROUGE (AP) — An outcry from students, faculty and alumni wasn’t enough to persuade the Southern University System governing board to reverse course Monday and keep James Llorens as chancellor of the main campus.
Llorens, who has led the Baton Rouge campus for three years, fell one vote short of what was needed from the Board of Supervisors to extend his contract.
The vote was 8-7 for a one-year extension, with one board member absent. It needed nine votes to pass.
Earlier this month, board members refused to renew Llorens’ contract. Students protested the decision, and members of the faculty, staff and alumni blasted board members for the rejection. A special board meeting was called to reconsider.
But after three hours of closed-door negotiating Monday, the outcome was the same, with Llorens’ contract ending June 30. After the vote, the chancellor said his time at the helm of the campus appeared to be over.
“I don’t anticipate the board taking this matter up again,” Llorens said.
He was named chancellor in May 2011, leading the largest of the five campuses in the Southern University System, the nation’s only historically black university system.
The initial dispute over the contract extension involved Southern System President Ronald Mason proposing that Llorens keep his job for an additional year, but with management restrictions that involved devising a plan with Mason to make organizational and financial changes on campus. Llorens didn’t agree to those terms.
By Monday, Llorens had changed his position, saying he would work with Mason on the changes, but his reversal wasn’t enough to get the votes needed to renew his contract for another 12 months.
Board members have offered little explanation publicly for their votes. Board chair Bridget Dinvaut, who voted against extending Llorens’ contract, refused to explain her decision Monday.
Leaders of student, faculty, staff and alumni organizations packed the hearing room in Baton Rouge for the reconsideration of Llorens’ contract extension. More than a dozen people spoke in support of the renewal. Only one person asked the board to sever ties with the chancellor.
Llorens’ supporters said he shepherded the university through difficult budget cuts and the declaration of a financial emergency, leading a campus-wide reorganization and increasing enrollment.
“Now is not the time to change leadership,” said Albert Samuels, a political science professor and president of the Southern University Federation of Teachers.
Anna Jones, chair of the board for the Southern University System Foundation, said ousting the chancellor would jeopardize the university’s stability.
“We trust some of you board members, some of you. We respect the president. We respect him because it’s the authority of the position. We love that man right there,” Jerry W. Jones Jr., a Southern graduate who drove from Lake Charles, said, pointing to Llorens.
Jones added, “There’s a lot of chancellors that should have been fired a long time ago. This one here needs to stay.”
Several Llorens supporters suggested Mason was trying to micromanage the Baton Rouge campus, an allegation the system president has repeatedly denied.
Mason said he expects the board’s personnel committee to do a national search for Llorens’ replacement.
“Part of my job now — and the chancellor’s too — is making sure that everybody keeps their eye on what’s best for Southern,” he said.