THE INVESTIGATORS: EBR Schools doubles down in defense of Day of Hope event

The East Baton Rouge school district is doubling down in its defense of the Day of Hope as criticisms pour in about what happened there.
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:37 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge school district is doubling down in its defense of the Day of Hope as criticisms pour in about what happened there. The event was advertised as a career fair where students across East Baton Rouge Parish could map out their next steps. While some enjoyed the event, others who showed up say it was a lot different than what they were told.

Colton Bryant is a student at Woodlawn High School and says he was not prepared for some of the topics that were discussed at the day-long event, including suicide and sex. On top of that, religion was also part of the event.

“It was really deceitful and if it would have been executed a bit better, I think it could been a great experience for others,” said Bryant. “The fact that they didn’t tell us that it was going to be at a church while students from my church are Muslim and I’m sure a bunch of students were uncomfortable and not ready for this.”

A spokesperson for the school system tells the 9News Investigators it was not a religious event and that all the prayers and topics that were discussed were student-led and in the moment. Bryant says that is not true.

“No, not at all. They had three guest speakers. One for abstinence, one for the bullying and self harm and the other one was about forgiving the abuser,” Bryant added. “Those women were talking about their own experiences and were telling them in extreme detail.”

A parent who only wanted to be identified as Jae says her daughter went to the event and she was not happy with it either. As a parent, she believes they were misled.

“That was neither the place nor the time for those conversations,” Jae said. “The level of dishonesty is a complete problem for me and bringing this religious factor into it. That’s not a problem if it’s in certain spaces and it’s given permission and I know I’m sending my child for that but we didn’t sign up for this.”

Dawn Collins, vice president of the EBR school board is disappointed. She does not blame the organization 29:11 Mentoring Families that put it on. Instead she says the school system dropped the ball.

“The onus of how this went down is on the school system,” said Collins. “Had we done our due diligence as a school system and gave full disclosure to parents, whether they wanted to participate or not, they would have know what was going down and they could have not sent their children if they did not want their child to participate period and we have to own that in my personal opinion.”

A permission slip for the event that was given to the 9News Investigators and emails from the school system that were sent to the media both mention a career fair but nowhere do they say anything about religion. This is not the first time the event organizers with 29:11 Mentoring Families have put on the event but it is the first time it’s gotten this much blow back. Collins says it all boils down to leadership.

“I myself as a board member, my colleagues as board members have to insist on higher quality leadership period,” said Collins.

Collins says at the end of the day, this falls on the school system and they should have done a better job of explaining what the Day of Hope was all about and now they should own what went wrong.

“Things need to be better planned,” said Collins. “Those things that need to be vetted need to be vetted. The level of confusion that’s taken place on something as simple as a college and career event, this is unnecessary.”

An official with the school system released the following statement addressing the event.

“The East Baton Rouge Parish School System has partnered with 29:11 Mentoring Families to provide additional support services for students in our district. One of these initiatives is the “Day of Hope” event. The event was structured to assist students with exploring what options are available after high school, along with allowing students to participate in breakout sessions and student-initiated activities and projects. By providing entertaining activities with an educational focus, this event was an elevation of a traditional college and career fair. Students were provided with lunch and a rare opportunity to mingle with their peers from other high schools in one setting. We look forward to seeing what our over 2,100 student participants will continue to achieve with the resources and knowledge gained from this event.”

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