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Louisiana Association of Educators discusses T-shirt controversy with St. Martin Parish Superintendent

LAE meets with St Martin Parish Superintendent.jpg
Posted at 5:49 PM, Jan 22, 2021

ST. MARTINVILLE, La. — The Louisiana Association of Educators says it has met with the St. Martin Parish School Superintendent to discuss an incident that took place earlier this week when teachers were asked to remove their t-shirts depicting "Chucks and Pearls."

According to a Facebook post from LAE, St. Martin Parish Superintedent Allen Blanchard, Jr. met with them Friday morning to discuss the incident that took place on Wednesday where educators were asked to remove their T-shirts reflecting "jewelry (pearls) and tennis shoes (chucks)."

The post states that Blanchard listened as LAE President Tia Mills provided him with the historic context behind the symbolism of Chucks and Pearls, and how they represent forward mobility for women and people of color and were not meant as a political statement.

KATC reached out to Blanchard, who said that no employee was asked to remove their shoes or jewelry.

“No employee was asked to remove shoes and jewelry," said Blanchard. "They were only asked to remove shirts that were addressed by St. Martin Parish School Board policy.”

That policy does not allow employees to wear t-shirts, except on "designated spirit days."

Blanchard says that the policy does not address shoes or jewelry and that its dress code says that no shirts may be worn that involve a political candidate.

Blanchard has issued a statement on the matter to clarify the policy and the incident earlier this week.

On Wednesday, I was informed that a few employees were wearing t-shirts of a political nature, and there was fear of a disruption of the educational environment of that school. School board policy and Louisiana law prohibits political activity by employees during the school day. The school exercised an exception to our dress code policy that day, calling for a jean day for teachers. The expectation has traditionally been that students and employees will wear spirit shirts that emphasize spirit for their school. Again, it would violate school board policy and our dress code to wear a shirt for a political activity purpose at any time during the school day.

With that information in mind, a decision was made to enforce school board policy and require that any political statements be removed or hidden.

Since that time, I have had an opportunity to meet with the teachers involved, and they provided an explanation of their intent and purpose. They assured me that they did not intend to engage in political activity, but rather, they were expressing support of their sorority and pride in our country’s first female vice-president.

During this election cycle and those before, we have tried to keep politics our of the schools and classrooms. We have had to address other employees on a few occasions for apparel or comments that were political in nature. It was never my intention to insult these teachers, the sorority involved, the sorority system or women in general. I apologize if it was taken in that manner, as that was not my intent. I am the father of three daughters, and I firmly believe that they are entitled to the equal pursuit of their goals and dreams.

Vice President Kamala Harris is known for wearing her Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers. The pearls have a connection to Harris' sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, whose founders are known as the "twenty pearls."

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