BATON ROUGE – The permission slip for what East Baton Rouge Schools called ‘The Day of Hope’ billed it as a free college fair for high school seniors with games and special guests.
Some students had fun. Others, like Colton Bryant, did not.
“This was supposed to be a college fair but the girls were talked to about abstinence, bullying, and death, and the guys played games,” Bryant said.
According to Colton, teachers who wanted to remain anonymous and social media posts, boys and girls were separated by gender. A teacher says the girls were told to be proper and practice abstinence.
The boys reportedly did not get the same treatment—instead we were told they did push-up competitions.
One student on Facebook called it a horrible experience and that it was not advertised to be a religious event. It’s something the Vice President of EBR School Board Dawn Chanet Collins says is a problem.
“There is a separation of church and state, and it seems like those lines may have been crossed,” Collins said.
Collins says the speakers may have been well-intentioned, but the school system did not let parents know these specific topics would be brought up, and the issues were handled well enough.
“I feel like the ball was dropped on how to approach these important topics and issues,” Collins said.
WBRZ tried Wednesday morning to get an interview with East Baton Rouge Schools about the event, but nobody was made available to take questions.
The school system then tried to distance itself from the event, despite Superintendent Sito Narcisse being on a flyer advertising it and making at least one media appearance to drum up participation.
EBR Schools even posted about the event on Facebook.
‘The Day of Hope’s organizer and head of non-profit 29:11 Academy, Tremaine Sterling, had a lot to say when advertising the event, even appearing on WBRZ’s 2une last week.
“Day of Hope is all about bringing hope to students chaperones and educators and hope is an acronym that means helping people push every day,” Sterling said.
It was different on Wednesday.
Even though the event was facing criticism, Sterling was at the Metro Council meeting to accept kudos from Councilwoman Chauna Banks.
WBRZ tried to get more information from Sterling, but we were told that he could not give us an interview.
Colton says he feels sorry for the students who were traumatized.
“I feel like I shouldn’t have been put through that,” Bryant said.
EBRPSS sent the following statement Wednesday:
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.