Louisiana School Faces Backlash for Staying Open Through Tornado

The decision not to suspend classes on April 10 in the face of three tornadoes in the region has led to demands for the resignation of a school superintendent in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana.

According to a statement by Shannon Lafargue, keeping schools open was his priority, and he did so based on the available data. He defended his choice.

However, many in the community were upset because the superintendent didn’t cancel classes, claiming that he endangered the lives of the faculty and children. As a result of having to travel in hazardous circumstances, such as flooded roadways and gusts exceeding 25 mph, bus drivers were especially agitated. For six days, over 30 drivers chose not to show up for work in protest, severely disrupting bus services.

An investigative report uncovered emails that allegedly showed Lafargue knew the National Weather Service had upgraded the storm’s severity predicted for April 10 to a 4 out of 5 as early as the morning of April 9th. The storm was at its fiercest from four in the morning to ten in the morning.

According to the National Weather Service, three distinct tornadoes made landfall in the Lake Charles region early on April 10th. Around McNeese State University, there was an EF-2 tornado with 115 mph winds, and in Cameron Parish, there were two EF-1 twisters.

At the Parish’s School Board meeting on April 16, Phylis Ayo, who represents District 11, requested an official inquiry into the school superintendent’s handling of the weather incident on April 10 to pinpoint the source of the communication failure.

During a special meeting on April 30, Lafargue asked the school board to adopt a policy of postponing the start of classes in case of bad weather.

The Southwest Louisiana Federation of Teachers and School Employees’ Teri Johnson demanded that Lafargue offer his apologies to the audience members.  He expressed his regret and acknowledged his responsibility.

When bad weather is predicted, schools may start as late as 10 in the morning, according to the new policy that the school board authorized at Lafargue’s suggestion.

Before he was appointed superintendent in 2022, Lafargue was the COO of the district and Chief Operating Officer of academics. He announced his retirement on June 28th.