A popular arts-focused magnet school in Baton Rouge has banned a parent from campus for the rest of the school year after she intentionally violated a new rule that parents can no longer park nearby and walk their kids onto school grounds.
The incident occurred Tuesday, and the parent, Katy Miletello, received her ban letter from Baton Rouge Center for Visual and Performing Arts on Wednesday. Miletello can pick up and drop off her daughter, but she herself can’t leave her car. The school has threatened that if she comes onto the campus at 2040 S. Acadian Thruway without permission, they will call the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, which handles school security, and possibly send her to jail. The school year ends May 20.
Principal Candice Hartley stopped allowing BRCVPA parents to park and walk their kids to class just before the school year started in early August. Hartley, who was named principal just two months earlier, instead directed parents to use the carpool line — a long line which spills onto Acadian and snarls traffic daily on that busy road.
The change has been an ongoing source of tension between Hartley and some BRCVPA parents.
Miletello is one of those parents. She strongly disagrees with the change and admits she had a confrontation with Hartley at school Tuesday when she picked up her daughter. But Miletello insists she did not raise her voice, saying Hartley was the one who escalated the argument.
In her ban letter, Hartley blames Miletello for violating the school rule but goes further: “Your aggressive and confrontational behavior towards the principal caused a major disturbance in front of children and the faculty of BRCVPA.”
Adonica Duggan, the spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, said principals have “discretion to request notice for campus visits when an individual causes a major disturbance” and that several principals have issued letters similar to the one Miletello received.
“This is a standard procedure in this type of incident,” Duggan said.
The Advocate sent Hartley an email with questions but received no response.
In August, in a letter to an upset BRCVPA parent, East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake tried to explain Hartley’s reasoning in restricting walk-ons by parents.
“She said it was very unsafe to have parents parking at the Catholic Life Center and walking onto the campus,” Drake wrote. “The main reason is that she does not know who is coming on the campus, anyone can walk on the campus and to a classroom. This is a major safety issue! No other campus has this set up.”
Another parent, Derrick Dwin, also parked next door and walked onto campus Tuesday afternoon to pick up his three children. Dwin has not been reprimanded.
“(Hartley) had a problem with me and not with him,” Miletello said.
In an interview, Dwin said his children normally take the bus, but three or four times a month he will pick them up. Sometimes, especially, if he’s running late from his truck-driving job, he said, he will just walk in and get them.
“I never saw a problem with it,” Dwin said. “Sometimes it’s easier for a parent like myself.”
The argument that flared up between Miletello and Hartley surprised him, and he tried to stay out of it, as he does most things at the school.
“They exchanged some words,” Dwin recalled. “(Hartley) directed everything to Katy. (Hartley) never said anything to me.”
Dwin recalled Hartley telling Miletello she would call campus security on her. He said he hates to see arguments in front of kids.
“I think Ms. Hartley could have just called her into the office and just say what she needed to say,” Dwin said.
Miletello already has tested her school ban. She said she requested permission to attend a student art show Thursday night that her daughter is participating in, but Hartley said no.
Miletello’s oldest child began attending BRCVPA in 2006 and her younger daughter, Alaina, 8, is in her third year at the school. A stay-at-home mom, Miletello used to routinely park and walk Alaina to school each day. Miletello said her daughter misses the daily mother-daughter ritual.
“That was a big part of her school day,” she said.
The carpool line change is one of many issues that have roiled BRCVPA, which was formed in 1996. Last June, soon after he started on the job, Superintendent Drake named Hartley as BRCVPA’s new principal in part to deal with criticism of prior school administrations.
Hartley’s decision to change carpool rules, however, quickly renewed parent complaints, and they soon made their way to Drake.
Unrest at the school, however, has not abated. On Monday night, Drake spoke to BRCVPA’s parent-teacher organization. Miletello said the discussion was limited to one issue and left out other concerns that she and other parents assumed Drake would address. She said she didn’t like what she was hearing and told Drake as much. She said the two met up again in the parking lot after the meeting, and Miletello said she criticized him again.
“I said, ‘I’m very disappointed in your leadership, and how this year is going and that you have ignored every single concern at this school,’ And he just walked onto this car and went off,” Miletello recalled.
The next day, Miletello decided to defy the carpool lane rule.
Editor's note: This story has been changed after publication to clarify that Drake took questions from parents after a school meeting.