Sanctions for the five employees of Alma J. Brown Elementary School are forthcoming, said Grambling State University Provost Robert Dixon.Those sanctions were announced earlier this month, but the process has been mired by the need to meet due process restrictions on punitive action, Dixon said.
The first to be dealt with will be the teacher who initiated the Sept. 20 rally in support of the Jena 6 that involved kindergartners and first-graders at the GSU-run laboratory school.
The university newspaper, The Gramblinite, printed a story and photo from the event in its Sept. 27 edition that showed a young girl being held up by her grandmother – a school employee – so a noose could be placed around her neck. That photo and the realization of the event caused a national news stir that lasted for several days.
The grandmother, a senior kindergarten and first grade teacher at the school, is still on paid administrative leave while being considered for termination because of her involvement. Dixon said she was found to be the event’s principal organizer – the person alleged to have put a noose around the young girl’s neck.
Once the dean of the GSU College of Education, Sean Warner, moves forward with a recommendation for her termination, she will be informed she has an opportunity to challenge it.
Warner, Dixon said, has been away from campus off and on since the incident to handle previously scheduled engagements and has not yet filed his recommendation with Dixon’s office.
Making contact with the employee is of paramount concern, Dixon said, as she has yet to respond to any efforts to contact her.
“We’re going to make every effort to get correspondence to her,” Dixon said. “The last thing we want is to have a step in the process missed or a right violated. We’ve bent over backwards to ensure that we haven’t.”
Part of that effort to follow procedure has involved GSU President Horace Judson calling for a review by the legal counsel for the University of Louisiana System, who visited campus Oct. 11-12, Dixon said.
The grandmother will have a chance to respond in an informal hearing to the grounds for the charges against her, Dixon said.
If she chooses to take that opportunity within five days, a judicial committee will hear her challenge, he said. If not, it will go straight to a formal hearing on the charges and a recommendation would be made to the president, who can choose to follow it or ignore it, Dixon said.
Another school employee, found to be a major participant in the rally, will face a suspension, Dixon said, and have the same due process extended to them.
Two others, teachers at the school whose classes were conscripted for the rally but were not involved in organizing it, will be handed letters of reprimand and have a chance to respond to them for their permanent personnel files.
The director of instruction, who did nothing upon learning of the event and made no effort to find out why it happened, faces a letter of reprimand and a sanction yet to be determined, Dixon said.
Identities have been withheld because of concerns for fair hearings, Dixon said.
“What some people will argue is that people have been prejudged,” he said. “We’ve received a lot of pressure from around the state, but we have to make sure the hearings are fair.