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UPDATE: After pushing Bible on dancing teen, Louisiana public school principal takes leave of absence
Jason St. Pierre punished senior Kaylee Timonet for dancing, but the backlash was fierce
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A week after Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre foisted a Bible on a student whose only “crime” was dancing at a Homecoming afterparty with her friends, the Louisiana native has suddenly stepped away from his position.
I recently posted about how Kaylee Timonet, a senior, had been called into St. Pierre’s office where she was told her dancing went against the Bible. He printed out Bible verses for her, removed her as student body president, and told her she was no longer eligible for an important scholarship. He also gave her a religious bracelet, the family told me.
But even Kaylee’s own mother said “nothing inappropriate” had occurred at the party (and she was there!) and that the principal had “no right” to inject Christianity into the situation.
There were several media outlets that wrote about the controversy and yet the school district didn’t say much in the initial aftermath. Kaylee’s family said they would consider a lawsuit if they had to. Meanwhile, students at the school waged a social media campaign in Kaylee’s defense with images and shirts reading “Let the girl dance.”
The question was what would happen next.
It’s been a hell of a lot more than even I anticipated.
On Sunday, St. Pierre issued a statement apologizing for his actions and reinstating Kaylee’s position with the student government. He also said he would re-endorse her for the scholarship:
Good afternoon WHS Family,
I believe it is necessary to respond to the public attention that has resulted from my actions regarding Kaylee Timonet’s participation in a dance party that was sponsored at an off-site location following WHS Homecoming.
I have had time to consider my actions, have conversations with the Timonets, and meet with district staff.
First, let me say that I have apologized to the Timonets and I am hopeful that my scheduled meeting with Kaylee’s mom will rectify this situation and allow Kaylee to enjoy the remainder of her senior year at Walker High School.
I will be reinstating Kaylee’s position on the Student Government Association. The SGA was created to give students a voice in their school and their community, to promote leadership qualities, and to represent their school with pride, enthusiasm, and respect. Our student government members are held to a high standard of student behavior. While I stand by that premise, I do believe that standard deserves the input of not just myself and top administrators, but also those student leaders. I hope to create a path moving forward where we can work together to create clear expectations for all.
I will be reinstating my scholarship endorsement for Kaylee. At Walker High, we strive to place our students first in every decision so they may be prepared for whatever career path they may aspire to take, and I believe my action will assist in doing that.
Finally, during my conversation with Kaylee regarding the dance party, the subject of religious beliefs was broached by Kaylee and myself. While that conversation was meant with the best intentions, I do understand it is not my responsibility to determine what students’ or others’ religious beliefs may be, that should be the responsibility of the individual.
As principal of Walker High School, I am faced daily with many difficult decisions for the interest of our students and employees that are never taken lightly. Please know that I always strive to place our students first in every decision. It is for that reason that I have taken this corrective action.
As we move forward, I ask for your continued support of Walker High School, our amazing teachers, and our outstanding students.
JASON ST. PIERRE, PRINCIPAL OF WALKER HIGH SCHOOL
That sounded like a good step forward… but Kaylee and her mother Rachel said it was “too little, too late.” That’s because the scholarship application was due October 3, so the principal’s endorsement at this point was meaningless. None of that negated the harm of foisting the Bible on her either. The family is Catholic, but they very much believe faith is a personal matter, not something you push on others.
The apology was not accepted.
… [Rachel Timonet told WAFB that St. Pierre] “mentioned reinstating the scholarship, I let him know that the scholarship deadline was done, and the damage that he’s done to her is done. I also told him I gave them the opportunity when I came in there at 7 o’ clock the next morning, to try and rectify the situation at that point. Now, with somebody holding his hand forcing him to do something, an apology being enforced it’s too late.”
Kaylee also posted a TikTok explaining her version of the story. Importantly, she denies the part of the statement in which her principal said “the subject of religious beliefs was broached by Kaylee and myself.” Kaylee didn’t bring up religion at all, she says; that’s “not factually true.”
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At the end of that video, she says, “Now it’s time for legal action.” The family told me last week that was a possibility as well.
Shortly after St. Pierre’s statement was released, another bombshell dropped: St. Pierre requested a leave of absence for the rest of the school year. Quite a fall for a man who was recently named a semifinalist for the Louisiana Principal of the Year Award.
A leave of absence is actually putting it mildly. According to Unfiltered with Kiran, the website that initially broke this story, St. Pierre announced his resignation yesterday.
St. Pierre reportedly called faculty and staff into an emergency meeting Monday morning where he informed them he was stepping down and retiring, a move sources say caught some central office staff by surprise. It’s unknown who may replace him.
“Just thankful for the community and happy that no child will ever have to be in this situation again,” Kaylee Timonet’s mother Rachel told UWK following the resignation.
(Update: Because his resignation has not been confirmed by the district, I have changed the headline to say “leave of absence.” It’s unclear if it’s a paid or unpaid leave.)
Either way, it looks like he won’t be shoving religion on students for the remainder of the school year. It’s a massive victory for Kaylee, her friends and family, and everyone else who doesn’t want to a see a public school principal punishing a stellar student over some fictional Jesus-inspired set of rules.
It’s not clear if a lawsuit is forthcoming from the family given that St. Pierre is no longer at the school. Rachel Timonet did not respond to an immediate request for comment.