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Serious consideration should be given by our legislature to changing the official state motto from “Union, Justice, Confidence” to something more realistic representation of our state—like, say… “At Least We Ain’t Mississippi” (or Arkansas or West Virginia).

On the other hand, West Virginia’s motto “Let Us be Grateful to God” seems a little misplaced as regards this story. the Arkansas motto “The People Rule” just has to be some kind of cruel joke and I still don’t know what our neighbors in Mississippi meant when they adopted “By Valor and Arms” as their calling card.

I write all this because 24/7 Wall Street, that online research service that publishes all those state, city and national surveys of the best and worst of just about anything, has just released another one that puts us right near the bottom but for Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia.

The ranking referred to in this case is “America’s Most and Least Educated States” and it has to be embarrassing to have Alabama and Kentucky looking down their noses at us. Yet, there was Alabama ranked as the seventh worst educated state with Kentucky just two notches better at the fifth-least educated.

And then there was Louisiana, sitting at 47th best, or to put it more bluntly, fourth-worst educated state in the country.

We should be so proud.

Yes, college tuition has more than doubled over the past three decades and in Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, who now plies his trade as an op-ed columnist for the Wall Street Journal (because he has so much good government advice to share based on his stellar job of destroying everything he touched), slashed funding for higher education by about 70 percent.

Louisiana has TOPS, which was originally set up to help students in need but which now is spread across the landscape for all students who maintain a 2.5 GPA while enrolled. Of course, what has gone virtually unsaid is that TOPS has resulted in an explosion of new housing construction on college campuses, underwritten by the universities but constructed by private investors in an elaborate scheme that allows universities to avoid having to go hat in hand to the State Bond Commission for permission to build the new units.

Some schools even require all unmarried, non-local students (that’s all students as in freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors) to live on campus so as to fill those new housing units. Unsaid is a requirement that all such students purchase meal tickets.

That’s because, according to a former Aramark food manager at a state university, the schools have contracts with food service companies to provide a predetermined number of meals. If, say, Grambling University has a contract with Aramark to provide three meals per day for 3,000 students, Grambling will do all in its power to fill the housing units (thus committing students to pay for the accompanying meal tickets). Should the school fall short and end up with only 2,000 students living in university housing, the school is still on the hook to Aramark for 9,000 meals per day.

Still, the share of Americans (in other states, apparently, but not here) with college degrees continues to increase. Latest figures show that 32 percent of all U.S. adults 25 and over have at least a bachelor’s degree, nearly double the 17 percent of 1980.

In Louisiana, that figure is 23.8 percent, 4th lowest in the U.S.

“Many of the state-level disparities in educational attainment parallel disparities in income, as well as socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, industry composition, and population growth,” the report said.

Accordingly, in Louisiana, the median household income was 4th lowest at $46,145 and the state’s unemployment rate of 5.1 percent was 4th highest in the nation. If you’re one to play hunches, you might remember the number 4 when you go to the racetrack or fill out your Mega Millions and Power Ball tickets.

Arkansas (23.4 percent of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree), Mississippi (21.9 percent) and West Virginia (20.2 percent), ranked 48th, 49th and 50th, respectively followed the pattern with Arkansas’s $45,869 median household income being the 3rd lowest, Mississippi’s $43,529 the 2nd lowest and West Virginia’s $43,296 the lowest. Do you see a trend here?

By contrast, Massachusetts topped the list with 43.4 percent of its adults holding at least a bachelor’s degree while the state’s median household income of $77,385 was 4th highest.

To review the entire list, state-by-state, GO HERE.

But hey, the news isn’t all bad.

Yet another survey, also by 24/7 Wall Street, that lists the 30 COLLEGES THAT PRODUCE the BEST NFL PLAYERS, actually has LSU ranked higher than Alabama even though the Crimson Tide did have two more all-time NFL players than did the Tigers.

LSU was ranked number 7, four rungs higher than ‘Bama, which came in at number 11. Alabama has 352 all-time NFL players to LSU’s 350. But LSU has 116 Pro Bowl players to 104 for the Tide. ‘Bama, on the other hand, has 8 alumni in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, to 3 for LSU. Notre Dame, as might be expected, ranked first, with 567 former players going on to the NFL and the Fighting Irish also led the pack with 182 Pro Bowl selections and 13 alumni in the Hall of Fame.

But here’s the caveat: “No college has produced more current NFL players than LSU and Florida,” the survey says. “The Tigers and Gators are tied with 56. There were eight Tigers drafted in 2017, including three first-round selections.

So, with all that gridiron success by LSU, who needs college degrees anyway?

If the Tigers can just somehow beat Nick Saban’s bunch, median income figures are for the politicians.

If LSU wins a national championship, nobody will care about unemployment rates.

We have our priorities in Louisiana.

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That ugly scene in which a Sterlington High School coach goaded a 16-year-old student into drinking vodka straight from a bottle and then physically attacked the youth, hitting him with his fists in the chest and face seems to have involved about half the officialdom of Ouachita Parish and maybe even a few folks from a neighboring parish.

Before taking this narrative any further, it’s important to remain focused on the primary issue because there are a lot of peripheral issues that come into play in its telling and each, in its own way, is an integral part of the whole.

In a nutshell, here is what happened:

Jack Goode, a coach, a teacher, an adult responsible for educating and molding the lives of young people, allowed teenagers who came to him for more beer after their supply ran out to handle an AR-10 assault rifle and then forced a 16-year-old, Chandler Jones, to drink vodka against his wishes, called him a p***y when he got sick from the booze and threw up, threatened to beat the youth like his (Goode’s) own father never had, then did so, striking him in the chest and face, and threatened to kill him, according to testimony given at an LSPC hearing.

Goode subsequently attacked Chandler Jones, throwing him down in a ditch while threatening to kill the youth and later appeared on a motorcycle at the home where the teenagers were partying and cut do-nuts in the lawn.

Goode was arrested on cruelty to a juvenile and for contributing to the delinquency of a minor but Geary Aycock, the district attorney’s chief felony prosecutor, inexplicably reduced the charges to simple battery and Goode was sentenced to pay a $300 fine, a sentence that was subsequently suspended, and he was placed on unsupervised probation. A condition of his probation was that he would not be able to seek employment at Sterlington High School nor Sterlington Junior High School. That wording is noteworthy because is said nothing about his working at other schools in Ouachita Parish.

Chandler’s mother, Haley Jones, a deputy sheriff, was subsequently accused of causing damage to her patrol car, demoted to radio duty and pushed to the point of resigning her job when she wasn’t even at the scene the night of the April 2017 incident. The pressure, she said, was because her father-in-law, a retired state trooper, posted comments about the incident on Facebook and Sheriff Jay Russell found his comments objectionable.

Her immediate supervisor was demoted from captain to lieutenant in the wake of the brawl triggered by an intoxicated high school coach when he remained with Mrs. Jones after she learned that her son had been attacked by Goode because he felt she was too distraught to be alone.

The deputy who conducted the investigation of the attack on Chandler Jones by Goode received a verbal reprimand.

Chandler’s dad, a Louisiana state trooper was initially recommended for a 40-hour suspension for interfering with the sheriff’s department’s investigation but had that reduced to 12 hours by LSP Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves, which was in turn upheld by the LSPC. The trooper, Joseph Jones (Chandler’s father), was off-duty, not in uniform nor was he in a state police vehicle when he arrived at Goode’s home, though he did admit he had drunk “eight to 10 beers” prior to hearing of the incident with his son. He also admitted to using profanity and offered to drop criminal charges against Goode if the coach would take the matter into a nearby field to handle the matter like men.

You can go HERE and HERE to READ REPORTER Zach Parker’s entire story of the incident and the LSPC hearing in the Ouachita Citizen.

All of which brings us to these two very obvious questions which must remain the center of the discussion after all else is said and done and which must be answered by the proper authorities:

How is it that Jack Goode is now back in a classroom just down the road from Sterlington at West Monroe High School (in Ouachita Parish) teaching children?

For the answer, LouisianaVoice did a little investigation of our own and what we found was certainly interesting, if not conclusive.

It seems that Jack Goode is a native of Richland Parish.

His mother, Linda Goode, is Assistant Administrator at Richland Parish Hospital in Delhi.

She is a MEMBER of the hospital’s Advisory Committee and Community Partners for the Richland Parish School-Based Health Center for the Delhi senior and high schools.

State Sen. Francis Thompson also is a MEMBER of that same committee.

Linda Goode made five CONTRIBUTIONS of $200 each to Thompson’s political campaigns between 2010 and 2017 and son Jack Goode chipped in another $200 in 2014.

As we said, those facts, while intriguing, are not conclusive, so LouisianaVoice sent the following email to Thompson Thursday at 4:14 p.m.:

Senator, did you intervene or otherwise have any input, influence, or involvement in the decision by the Ouachita Parish School Board to hire Jack Goode to a teaching position at West Monroe High School after he agreed to resign from his teaching/coaching position at Sterlington High School as a result his providing alcohol for and fighting with a 16-year-old student in April 2017?

Did you discuss the status of Jack Goode with anyone either:

  • In the office of the Ouachita Parish District Attorney,
  • At the Ouachita Parish School Board office, including but not limited to School Board President Jerry Hicks,
  • Any official of West Monroe High School, or
  • Any individual associated with the Louisiana State Police?

Did anyone, including Jack or Emily Goode or Linda Goode, ever contact you on behalf of Jack Goode as a result of the altercation between juvenile Chandler Jones and Jack Goode?

On Friday at 9:46 a.m., we received this one-word response from Thompson through his Delhi Senate office:

From: Thompson, Sen. Francis (District Office) <thompsof@legis.la.gov>
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2018 9:46 AM
To: ‘Tom Aswell’ 
Subject: RE: JACK GOODE

No.

Perhaps this is an issue the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education might wish to take up.

It’s no secret that LouisianaVoice has often been in disagreement with actions of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) and LSTA legal counsel Floyd Falcoln. So, to say it took the perfect storm to bring us all into accord is something of an understatement.

The Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) has inserted itself into a roiling controversy surrounding actions by a former Sterlington High School football coach and in the process, crossed swords with the Ouachita Parish School Board.

And while at first blush, it would seem inappropriate for a state agency like LSPC to engage itself in local matters, especially in the discipline of a high school coach, Robert Burns of the blog Sound Off Louisiana provides key insight into how double standards are applied at the sacred altar of high school football.

Thanks to Burns and his POST of today (Sept. 11) which was re-posted by Walter Abbott’s LINCOLN PARISH NEWS ONLINE, we have a pretty clear picture of why the LSPC, the equivalent of the state police civil service commission, got itself involved in a local matter—and we concur fully in the LSPC action.

In April 2017, when a student party ran short of beer, Sterlington football coach JACK GOODE voluntarily provided partiers with more booze, including vodka. When 16-year-old Chandler Jones resisted the hard stuff, Goode forced him to drink it until he got sick. Goode then struck the teen several times in the chest and face.

A responsible adult, upon being told by a bunch of teenagers that their party had run out of beer, would have shut the party down immediately. But Goode, by all accounts, was anything but a responsible adult on the night in question. In fact, Ouachita Parish sheriff’s deputies described him as “highly intoxicated.”

That was bad enough but it turned out that the Jones teenager was the son of state trooper Joseph Jones who, though off-duty, arrived on the scene simultaneous to the arrival of Ouachita Parish sheriff’s deputies. Jones had been contacted by a deputy who was the parent of another student at the party.

Goode was arrested and charged with battery and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. District Attorney Steve Tew, however, reduced charges against Goode to misdemeanor battery. Goode walked away from the incident after paying a $300 fine and stepping down as a teacher and coach at Sterlington High School.

The LSPC became indirectly involved when it upheld disciplinary action against the elder Jones for involving himself in a sheriff’s office investigation while off-duty. By a 4-2 vote, Jones was handed a 12-hour suspension while Goode was quickly hired by the Ouachita Parish School Board as a teacher at West Monroe High School.

LSPC, incensed at Goode’s being allowed to remain in the school system after such egregious behavior while Jones received a suspension for doing what any reasonable parent would do under similar circumstances, fired off a LETTER highly critical of the board’s irresponsible actions.

The letter, signed by all seven LSPC members, said that even though Trooper Jones “acted with greater restraint than many parents would have under the circumstances,” the commission nevertheless meted out what it deemed to be appropriate discipline for Jones having intervened in a sheriff’s department investigation, discipline the letter said “was in order for a violation of State Police policies.”

“Yet, despite the horrendous conduct of Mr. Goode, we understand that he is still employed by the School Board and still has access to and authority over minors in your school system.

“This Commission is appalled that this School Board continues to employ Jack Goode in such a capacity after the events that occurred in April 2017, and (that) it continues to allow Mr. Goode to work as a teacher of minor children at West Monroe High School.”

Well, someone has to be the adult in the room and it’s obvious that neither Goode nor the Ouachita Parish School Board are prepared to stake out their claims to such lofty ideals.

Louis Ackal just can’t seem to get it right, though he does seem to get his kicks from having deputies rough up black prisoners and attacking them with vicious DOGS.

Oh, he prevailed in his federal trial on charges of civil rights violations while throwing a few deputies under the bus a couple of years back but the bad news just seems to keep coming out of his office in New Iberia.

Last week, The Advocate newspapers and Lafayette TV station KTAC failed in their effort to UNSEAL THE SETTLEMENT AMOUNT between Ackal’s Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office and the family of a man who died of a gunshot wound in March 2014 while in the custody of sheriff’s deputies.

The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office following the death of Victor White III, who was shot in the chest while seated in an IPSO patrol car—with his hands cuffed behind his back. The coroner ruled that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted after deputies claimed that White had somehow managed to get his hands on a gun and to shoot himself.

Ackal personally was not opposed to the release of the settlement amount, but the decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna nevertheless did nothing to mitigate the cold hard numbers that show Ackal’s office has paid out about $3 million in settlements and judgments during his 10-year tenure—a rate of $25,000 for every month he has been in office.

Though sealed, the settlement amount in the White case is believed to be in the range of $600,000.

Nor did Judge Hanna’s ruling do anything to soften the image of Ackal—real or perceived—as a man to be feared by the Iberia Parish African-American community, especially in light of last week’s RESIGNATION of a New Iberia city police officer after video of him slamming a black prisoner was made public.

The officer, James Andrews, was an Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputy at the time the video was taken on August 5, 2017. New Iberia Mayor Freddie DeCourt said he was unaware of the existence of the video until August of this year, a year after the incident.

A Lafayette television station, KADN aired a partial VIDEO of the incident but redacted the face of the unidentified man who was arrested for simple possession of marijuana. There is no audio with the aired clip.

LouisianaVoice, however, obtained an unedited video of the ENCOUNTER, complete with audio. During the exchange between Andrews and the prisoner, Andrews slapped a cup from the prisoner’s hands and then physically attacked him by grabbing him by the throat, forcing him to a sitting position.

Andrews accused him of resisting even though the man, while failing to immediately comply with the order to sit, was never aggressive nor did he actually resist Andrews. The deputy can be heard telling the man, “I gave you five warnings to sit down,” but can actually be heard only twice telling him to sit—with virtually no time to comply after the second command before attacking the prisoner.

At least two other deputies were present during the entire altercation, one of whom appears to be an undercover officer. It was not clear who was taking the video but because Andrews and the prisoner were followed down a corridor and into a booking room, it would appear it was taken by a body cam worn by a law enforcement officer, possibly another deputy.

When the man complained that he’d been choked, Andrews responded, “Damn right. I sat you down by force.” When asked his name, he said, “James Andrews. I’d love to go to court today.”

The man was also booked for resisting arrest following the attack by Andrews though there was never a time when he appeared to pose a threat to officers.

By resigning prior to any disciplinary action being taken, Andrews theoretically could obtain employment with another law enforcement agency unless his police commission is revoked.

I have to respectfully disagree with Kevin Reeves.

Col. Reeves, the Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent, penned a LETTER to the editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate today (Friday, Aug. 31) in which he questioned the appropriateness and purpose of the paper’s continued reporting of what he referred to as an “incident” that occurred “over 20 months ago.”

The “incident,” of course, was that ill-advised road trip by four troopers to a San Diego convention—in and LSP vehicle—by way of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, which proved to be the tipping point that brought the career of Reeves’s predecessor, Mike Edmonson, already rocked with a succession of scandals, to an abrupt end.

Reeves, who by all accounts, has demonstrated his determination to set LSP back on course and to restore its image, said it is time for The Advocate (and LouisianaVoice, I assume, though we were not mentioned in his letter) to “move forward” and to pull back on its negative coverage.

I’m certain that Col. Reeves needs no reminder that it was the State Police Commission (the LSP equivalent of the State Civil Service Commission) that kept the issue alive by its interminable foot-dragging in its investigation of the trip.

Repeated attempts by retired State Police Lt. Leon “Bucky” Millet of Lake Arthur to prod the commission into a full-blown investigation of the trip, as well as several apparent violations of LSP regulations and state laws by the Louisiana State Troopers Association, were met by delays followed by yet more delays and postponements as the commissioners seemed determined to turn a blind eye to events occurring under their collective noses.

In the end, Reeves attempted to mete out appropriate punishment to the four troopers who pleaded ignorance of regulations and who said they were merely following the directives of Edmonson. (Ironically, such pleadings of ignorance never carry the day when a motorist is pulled over for a traffic violation.)

But again, it was the commission, in its resolve to tidy things over, that overturned Reeves’s punishment in a recent hearing held in Monroe. That, for good, bad, or indifferent, kept the story alive. When the head of Louisiana State Police is blocked from disciplining errant troopers for actions they well should have known were improper, that’s legitimate news and it should be reported.

First, it was Maya Lau who covered the State Police Commission. She was a quiet but effective reporter and did an excellent job until she left to go to work for the Los Angeles Times. She was succeeded by Jim Mustian who also held the commission accountable. Now he’s leaving for a job in New York with the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, yours truly is staying put. I’m not going anywhere and I will continue to report on all governmental wrongdoing, local or state.

For instance, there is still the pending matter involving State Trooper Eric Adams:

WAFB-TV story

Warrant-redacted

Criminal dismissal

Petition

Motion for Sanctions

Answer & Recon Demand-filed