Protesters on Sunday marched to the home of East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Connie Bernard while calling for her resignation following comments she made defending Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and shopping for clothes during a meeting centered on renaming a high school bearing his name.

The demonstration Sunday evening saw only 20 protesters waving signs and chanting "Bye Bye Connie" as they stood in front of Bernard's south Baton Rouge home.

It was part of an effort to recall the embattled school board member from her District 8 seat as organizers gathered signatures from voters in Bernard's district, including some from her neighbors, on a petition to put the recall on the ballot.

"The mission of EBR schools is to create an inclusive and welcoming environment," said Katherine Thompson, who co-organized the demonstration. "Connie Bernard has not shown that."

Thompson, 19, a Baton Rouge native and University of Virginia student, does not live in District 8.

Recalling Bernard of her position would require gathering 8,000 signatures from registered voters in the district. So far, organizers said have collected just more than 760, including 40 on Sunday. They have until Dec. 22 to file the petitions with the parish Registrar of Voters Office, which will then verify the signatures.

Calls for Bernard to resign grew following comments she made about Robert E. Lee during a June 10 TV interview, in which she said people offended by the name of Lee High School in Baton Rouge should “learn a bit more” about him.

Those comments came as school leaders were debating changing the name of Lee High School, which the School Board earlier this month changed to Liberty High School. A majority of board members, including Bernard, approved the name change.

Shortly after apologizing for her comments, Bernard was accused of shopping for clothing during a school board meeting, allegations she denied and said were due to pop-ads.

A WAFB TV report, citing her web browser history, found Bernard had been surfing the web on her district-issued laptop for three hours during a tense school board meeting while officials and the public discussed renaming Lee High School.

A handful of school board members joined the chorus of calls asking Bernard to step down, and some have vocally supported the recall push.

Bernard said she has no plans to leave office and vowed to serve out her third term, which ends at the end of 2022.

Critics have also pointed to past incidents involving Bernard that have provoked calls for her to step down.

She was charged with battery after a profanity-laced video showed her confront several young people having a party down the street from her home. At one point, the video shows Bernard grasping one young man at the base of his neck.

Authorities issued Bernard with a misdemeanor citation for entering and remaining after being forbidden and battery.

After the video of the incident was widely shared online, Bernard stepped down as the school board vice president, citing her husband's health. She apologized for the profanity but stopped short of mentioning any of her other actions that night.

Some protesters on Sunday also said they're displeased with Bernard's performance on the board, mainly touching on disappointments that no new public schools have been built in south Baton Rouge since the '60s.

"That's the platform she ran on to get elected. She wanted more schools and more choice, but we don't have any choice here," said Marcie Frazier, who co-organized Sunday's demonstration and who lives in District 8. "It's the comments but it's also everything else."

Bernard either didn't appear to be home during the protest or didn't come out to speak with protesters. She couldn't be reached by phone for comment after the protest. 


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad