KPLC Investigation: Calcasieu school board may not be following own rules

KPLC Investigation: Calcasieu school board may not be following own rules
Lance Lee Duhon. (Source: Louisiana State Police)
Lance Lee Duhon. (Source: Louisiana State Police)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Calcasieu Parish School Board officials claim there are policies in place to protect students and that those policies are strictly followed.

An investigation by KPLC shows that may not be true.

Lance Lee Duhon was indicted earlier this year on a charge of indecent behavior with a juvenile. State police have said that Duhon had a sexual relationship with a student while he employed at Sam Houston High.

In 2008, Duhon was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to a student while he was a substitute teacher and assistant coach at Barbe High. He left Barbe but was hired at Sam Houston four years later despite objections from the principal at Barbe.

Just months after he was rehired, he was arrested on the indecent behavior charge.

"There's not a lot of gray area here," said Calcasieu Parish School Board Public Information Officer Kirby Smith. "It's pretty well defined what's acceptable behavior and what's not, when you are to report, who you are to report to, we try to make it very clear because again we are dealing with people here we can't take our children's safety, we can't leave it up to chance."

But that is not what happened in 2008.

Barbe High Principal Beth Fraser admitted in a deposition that she didn't report what she knew about DUhon and another student to law enforcement. Fraser said she relied on the victim's parents to contact the Sheriff's Office.

"No, that would not satisfy under our policy," Smith said. "I mean our policy is pretty clear, the parent will be informed through the process but calling somebody's parent and letting them know does not satisfy that."

While there has been no recourse from Fraser's failure to report, those missteps are what Smith says are uncovered during internal investigations by the school board.

"Our internal investigation is to make sure that our employees follow the policy correctly and the procedures are outlined," Smith said. "We want to make sure that our students are safe and that their well being is our number one priority and it always is.

"We're not necessarily looking at 'did this happen?' or 'did this not' because we really have the ability to do law enforcement to do that but. What we're looking at is did the right people get the right information to the people who need to know.

Somer Brown, the attorney for the former Sam Houston student suing Duhon, said she is not convinced the investigation are happening.

If they are, Brown said relying on law enforcement can't be the end all, be all.

"Law enforcement is dealing with the criminal process and the criminal investigation, it's not law enforcement's job to protect those children everyday," Brown said. "It's the school board's job."

KPLC wanted to know how many claims of inappropriate behavior between teachers and students have been made in the district.

We also asked how many prompted internal investigation and what those investigations consisted of.

The school board said they didn't know exactly how man had been made and couldn't show us any of their internal investigation documents because of student privacy laws.

When attorneys, who were after the same information, subpoenaed the school board, the results were less than encouraging.

The school board handed over a few articles from the KPLC website and a newspaper clipping from the American Press.

No official school board documents were included.

Brown said she thinks it could mean one of a number of things.

"It tells me either that the school board is doing nothing and has no documents or it tells me that the school board is hiding something and doesn't want the public to know what they're doing when these allegations occur," she said.

Duhon is facing criminal charges in addition to the civil lawsuit, but attorneys said they believe this issue is bigger than Duhon or an isolated event.

"What I hope occurs as a result of this lawsuit is that things change at the school board and that I don't ever have another little girl walk in here and tell me that this happened only to find out that the school board is the one who put the predator in her path," Brown said.

School board officials maintain the children are safe in the Calcasieu Parish school system.

"We want to make sure our children are safe," Smith said. "At any moment they're entrusted to us or with our employees in the district. We want to make very clear what is wrong, what is right, acceptable behavior at any time you feel uncomfortable, report it."

Duhon is set to go to trial next month. At least check, a motion was filed to hold the school board in contempt of court for failing to produce court-mandated documents related to any investigations into inappropriate conduct between students and teachers.

School board officials have failed to comment further on the Duhon situation and how they handled it.

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