Cynthia Thompson Perkins (left) and Dennis W. Perkins (right)

Cynthia Thompson Perkins (left) and Dennis W. Perkins (right)

The Livingston Parish School Board met Thursday for the first time since child porn charges were lodged against a teacher, but the privacy and investigation concerns that kept the board silent on the matter disappointed several community activists who were hoping for stronger leadership.

Cynthia Perkins, 34, and her husband, former Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office SWAT leader Dennis Perkins, 44, were arrested in late October on a series of child sex counts, including 60 counts of production of child pornography and two counts of first-degree rape.

Cynthia Perkins had been an English Language Arts teacher at Westside Junior High School in Walker until her arrest, after which she immediately resigned, according to school officials.

Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy spoke Thursday during his regularly scheduled comment period about the importance of Veterans Day and a custodial issue, but did not address Perkins' arrest. The meeting included items about the district's recently release performance scores, and was over in 16 minutes.

"I certainly thought that tonight's meeting of the School Board would have some answers, some enlightenment, but it wasn't on the agenda and not a word was spoken and I'm disappointed," said Livingston Parish resident Taryn Creekbaum. She does not have any children in the school system, but two grandchildren attend Livingston Parish schools. 

Neither attends Westside.

"Maybe no ill intent was done but apparently there were some loopholes where a teacher of theirs was allowed to be in the school system and come into contact with students to acknowledge that happened," Creekbaum said. "They need to acknowledge that and (say) 'okay, now we're going to take a step back and prevent this from happening again.'"

Livingston Parish Schools did not make any formal announcement to parents about Perkins' arrest directly after it happened, and deferred all questions from media to the Attorney General's Office, which is the main prosecuting agency in the case.

That agency still has released few details about the nature of the allegations against both Dennis and Cynthia Perkins, citing a need to protect the privacy of the juvenile victim or victims and the sensitive nature of the case.

Community activist and recent parish council candidate Muriel Laws also does not have any children in the school system, but said Thursday the situation and in particular the district's handling of information has been "unsettling."

"I was expecting when I came to see a long line of parents out here. I was expecting not to get in the parking lot because of how unsettling it is and I don't even have children (in Livingston schools), but because I have grandchildren everything that happens to children period upsets me," she said.


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Laws said she believes the district should have facilitated a forum for parents to learn about situation, and parents at the school should have heard about the arrest firsthand from the district rather than through social media or news stories.

"If it's my children, if it's anyone's children that has that kind of concern then they should allow the parents to express their concerns and address them because if you don't it just gets worse," she said. "Don't just let the parents languish and wonder what's going on."

School Board members David "Bo" Graham and Jeffery Cox, whose districts cover Westside Junior High, did not respond to a request for comment prior to Thursday's school board meeting.

School Board president Buddy Mincey Jr. said prior to the meeting he did not want to comment on the matter, and the school system issued a brief statement on social media Thursday morning reiterating previous statements that it would not comment on the pending case, deferring comment to the Attorney General's office.

"In compliance with the wishes of the Attorney General and to protect the integrity of the investigation and the privacy of our students and their families, LPSS will not comment or discuss details of the matter until such time as the case has reached deposition," the statement reads. "Our priority is the welfare of the children of this district and the preservation of a consistent, quality educational process during this stressful time."

School Board members Graham and Brad Sharp were absent from Thursday's meeting.

Cynthia Perkins appeared in the 21st Judicial District Court in Livingston on Thursday morning for a protective order hearing, but the details of that hearing were closed to the public. Both Cynthia and Dennis Perkins signed protective orders last week during their first court hearings swearing they wouldn't contact the protected person, though the judge did not stipulate in either case who that person is nor their relation to the defendants.

Both had appeared in court for a Gwen's Law hearing, which is a type of hearing specifically designed to assess bond based on the ongoing safety of a victim in a case when that victim is a family or household member.

Cynthia and Dennis Perkins are both being held without bond. Cynthia Perkins is in the Livingston Parish Jail. Dennis Perkins is at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, a state prison where he's being housed for Livingston Parish due to safety concerns, being that he's a former law enforcement officer.

Email Emma Kennedy at ekennedy@theadvocate.com.