Last week’s Winn Parish School Board Committee meeting started off business as usual. There’s a deficit in the budget, the hiring process for a new superintendent continues and the agenda for the regular school board meeting was set.
Then, during final comments from board members District 11 Board Member Leah Clingan expressed that she was “very upset” regarding being recently informed that four Winnfield Senior High School students were not allowed to wear stoles that symbolized that they have committed to serving in the Army National Guard following high school graduation. “These kids deserve to be recognized just as much as any kid getting a $100,000 scholarship,” stated Clingan.
The person or persons involved in the decision were not mentioned in the meeting per guidelines. However, the WPJ learned later from Seargent Jeffrey Finley, Louisiana Army National Guard Recruiter that Dr. Jane Griffin, WSHS Principal allegedly did not allow the students to wear the stoles during the graduation ceremony.
Sgt. Finley explained that, he arrived at the auditorium at least one hour prior to the ceremony approached Griffin with the stoles for the students when she informed him that the students would not be allowed to wear the stoles stating “we only honor academic achievement and plus they will look like Christmas Trees.” “It was very upsetting,” stated Finley. “It’s important that their commitment to serve our country be recognized, so important that I didn’t attend my own daughter’s graduation from pre-K to be there with them.”
Griffin vehemently denies that Finley’s version of events is accurate. According to Griffin, Sgt. Finley arrived at the graduation ceremony just moments before it started and aggressively insisted the students be allowed to wear the military stoles. “The first thing I saw was camouflage, which is strictly prohibited in the WPSB dress code. This was thrown at me at the very last minute. If I would have known a couple of weeks ago about the stoles I could have possibly received approval from the administration for the students to wear them. But being thrown at me at the last minute I decided to adhere to dress code policies and not allow them.” stated Griffin.
The four students committed to serving in the Louisiana National Guard are Kassidy Roberson, Kerenesky Green, Gavin Arnaud and Mikerra Evans.
“No one ever told us that we weren’t going to be able to wear our stoles. If we weren’t allowed to wear them because of policy I’d like to see that policy changed. I mean we are the class of change.” Green offered when the WPJ reached out to him.
Arnaud added, “It was disrespectful, what I did by joining the Louisiana National Guard is important, much more important than any high school achievement. I feel like all of us and our recruiter deserves an apology from her.”
“This had nothing to do with not supporting the military, we are a military family. This was a call I was forced to make at the last minute and I decided to stick to our school policies,” explained Griffin.
Roberson alleges “Dr. Griffin told me at graduation practice earlier in the day that we would not be allowed to wear the military stoles.”
All board members present at the meeting agreed that the matter needs to be addressed and that the students deserve to be recognized for their commitments to serve.
Sgt. Jeffrey Finley and Kassidy Roberson are pictured above with Kassidy wearing the military stole in question.
You can watch Clingan’s comments here: