Bigotry Back at Home: On a Baton Rouge School Principal’s Racist Rant

Donney Rose
Oct 16, 2020 - 2:03

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If you have been following my writing, you know that I recently relocated from Baton Rouge to Hyattsville, Maryland. I am actually heading back to Baton Rouge this weekend on a somber note, as my wife and I will be burying her father. Though I’m no longer a resident of Baton Rouge, I keep up with the news going on there, as you don’t just spend your whole life in a place and completely disconnect from it.

Well, at least that’s not my plan.

Because  I try to stay abreast about the happenings in my hometown, a lot of my social advocate friends keep me posted about the latest news regarding injustice, racism, inequities and general civic developments.

Unfortunately, my birthplace is never at a shortage of bullshit.

The latest instance of not-so-subtle racism comes by way of the principal of East Baton Rouge Parish’s Liberty Magnet High School (formerly Lee High). The school gained national attention when a school board meeting around the name change from Lee to Liberty went viral on account of EBR School Board Member Connie Bernard being called out for online shopping during the measure. 

The Black Baton Rouge community strongly lobbied for the school to be renamed after P.B.S. Pinchback, the first Black governor of Louisiana elected during post-Civil War Reconstruction. But when it came time for votes to be cast, the school was ultimately renamed to Liberty High, bearing the same name of a fictitious school in a television show centered around a teenager who died by suicide.

Why rename the school after a Black history icon when you can rename it an ambiguous, unintentional nod to a television show about teen trauma?

But, I digress.

The drama with Liberty High came by way of its principal, Rob Howle, who went on a nationalist text rant about student-athletes needing to be forced to stand for the national anthem. In a private message that made its rounds to social media, Howle said the following about high school football players refusing to stand:

“Playing Football is a privilege not a right. If they don’t want to stand they can turn in their equipment and we will refund their money.”

Howle was placed on administrative leave per the report of the Baton Rouge news channel, WBRZ

In a statement from an EBR schools spokesperson to the news station, Howle’s rant effectively placed him in violation of policies outlined in the EBR student handbook.

“The Office of Human Resources initiated an investigation based on information received today regarding Liberty High School. As a result, an administrator has been placed on administrative leave,” the statement read. “In accordance with the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System respects students’ rights to freedom of speech and expression and promotes responsible citizenship.”

Apparently, Mr. Howle was only leading a school with ‘liberty’ in its title by default and not in principle. Which makes him a lousy principal.

About the Author

Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be.

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