School board, law enforcement officials react to injunction reinstating tailgate

Washington-Marion High School.
Washington-Marion High School.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 1:31 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - School board and law enforcement officials held a quickly called news conference Thursday night after a judge’s order effectively reinstated the Washington-Marion homecoming tailgate.

The school had canceled the tailgate after fights at the school and threats on social media toward staff. But Judge Derrick Kee signed an injunction that stopped the school board from closing the area where the tailgate is to be held.

The school board has requested a stay or denial from Judge Mike Canaday. If neither is granted, the district plans to request an emergency writ from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sheriff Tony Mancuso and other officials at the news conference Thursday acknowledged the injunction saying they would follow the court order but gave a warning to those attending homecoming events.

“I’m begging, pleading, whatever you want to call it, to the parents of this community to step up tonight and start being parents and leaders and moral models to our kids. Enough is enough,” said Sheriff Mancuso. “We don’t sit our kids down and say, ‘hey, you’re not going to fight at school, you’re not going to bring guns to school, you’re not going to do drugs at school, you’re not going to bring alcohol’ and then yet we want to have a function at a school where we’re going to have alcohol?”

The tailgate event has had issues with alcohol in years past. In 2017, blatant alcohol use was on display at the event held on school property.

“We’re going to search and look for alcohol (Friday) at these functions. There is zero tolerance,” said Mancuso.

Ward 3 Marshal Nathan Keller echoed those concerns saying, “I get it, let’s have the tailgate but let’s do the right thing when we have it. No alcohol, alcohol-free. We can come out and have a good time without having alcohol in the presence of our children. This is about our kids. Our kids, walking down for the homecoming on that field, being proud and walking in the middle of field with a parent or guardian or whomever? Who are we to spoil that?”

In its post canceling the event, Washington-Marion High School cited safety concerns. Lake Charles Police Chief Shawn Caldwell gave some insight into what law enforcement are dealing with.

“In the past there were talks about law enforcement ‘did you have intelligence to tell you that something may have gave you a hint that things would lead awry?’ That’s what happened in this case. Look, we respect the Court’s decision and we will absolutely adhere to it, but our intelligence is telling us that bad things may happen,” Chief Caldwell explained.

Those who filed the injunction questioned why the tailgate was canceled but not other events such as the homecoming dance or game. Calcasieu Parish School Superintendent Dr. Shannon LaFargue explained the reasoning behind the district’s decision.

“Our safety concerns involved serious matters. Those concerns stemmed from the culminating events of this week, coupled with the public threats against members of our staff,” said Dr. LaFargue, “[Canceling tailgate] allowed us to better direct resources to ensure the safety and security of the main event of the night, which is the homecoming football game for the Charging Indians.”