A small Facebook storm flared up in Ascension Parish this week over a student’s apparently fumbled Pledge of Allegiance recitation at Dutchtown High that left out the words “under God.”

The student recited the pledge Thursday over the school’s intercom, and a parent posted a comment on Facebook voicing his concerns. The parent said he heard the school was omitting the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

The school’s principal, Carli Francois, dispelled rumors that the words “under God” had been removed from the pledge in an email to Kerry Diez, the School Board member who represents the district that includes Dutchtown.

Francois wrote that the student who recited the pledge over the intercom Thursday isn’t the one who regularly performs that duty. She suggested the student might have been nervous and accidentally left out the words, which are included in the written script of the Pledge of Allegiance for students to read.

“There have been numerous instances when students are leading the pledge or singing the national anthem when they fumble or skip a phrase or two. ... Like those times, I am sure this was an honest mistake,” Francois said in the email provided by the School Board.

“Please ensure any stakeholder who may question you that we have not and would never remove any portion of the pledge,” Francois wrote Diez. “As a matter of fact, I brought this practice of reciting the pledge back to Dutchtown High School.”

Francois became principal at the school at the beginning of this school year.

Winner in Livingston case: FEMA lawyers

More than six years after Hurricane Gustav made landfall, there finally has been a FEMA award related to Livingston Parish’s $59 million in claims for storm cleanup costs.

Unfortunately for the parish and its contractors, the award was in the form of a plaque, which was given to the federal agency’s legal team for its “unequivocal and complete victory” in defeating the parish at arbitration last year.

Lawyers and assistants with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Chief Counsel recently were given the Excellence Award, recognizing their successful defense against Livingston’s claims “in a highly contentious matter challenging the integrity of a FEMA eligibility determination in its public assistance program,” according to information provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said Friday he couldn’t believe the attorneys were celebrating while parish residents struggled to recover from the financial loss.

“The idea that they’re patting each other on the back for putting good, hardworking people in this parish out of business is absolutely disheartening and absurd,” Ricks said. “We’re using taxpayer dollars to support FEMA, and then they turn around and use those funds to prevent us from getting paid. It’s a shame.”

After a weeklong hearing in May with testimony from 28 witnesses, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals in Washington, D.C., found that FEMA had correctly denied payment of Livingston’s claims because much of the parish contractors’ work was ineligible under the federal agency’s guidelines.

The ruling was binding and cannot be appealed.

2nd candidate enters Iberville’s clerk race

A second person has announced plans to run for Iberville Parish clerk of court this fall. Amy Matirne Patin, who now serves as the parish’s chief deputy clerk, has the endorsement of her boss, Clerk J. Gerald “Bubbie” DuPont.

DuPont, who announced this week he won’t seek re-election, said in a news release that he’d feel confident leaving his position in the hands of Patin, who he described as capable and trustworthy.

“I’ve been able to depend on Amy for years, and I’m certain she is the most experienced, dedicated and fiscally responsible candidate,” DuPont said

Patin started as a part-time worker for the Clerk’s Office when she was 17 before being promoted to full time and has worked in the Clerk’s Office for 22 years, according to her announcement.

Patin says she has worked in each department and led various projects such as installing major computer upgrades, making parish records available online, developing identification programs and implementing an e-commerce system for purchasing documents online.

If elected, she says she will continue the preservation of parish records, make land records available online and work more with outlying municipalities in the parish.

“I want to continue to provide the service (residents) deserve as their next clerk of court,” she said.

Edward “Lucky” Songy Jr., Iberville Parish’s chief administrative officer, announced in February he’s also running for the position.

Advocate staff writers Ellyn Couvillion, Heidi Kinchen and Terry L. Jones contributed to this report