Lawsuit filed against EPSB alleging inappropriate conduct between former teacher and student
By: TONY MARKS
A civil lawsuit was filed in the 13th Judicial District Court as the result of a former student of Evangeline Central High School taking his life in the presence of one of his former teachers. The defendants in the lawsuit are the teacher Whitney Guillory and the Evangeline Parish School Board.
The lawsuit was filed by Misty Fontenot, who is the mother of the former student Colby Fontenot, on her behalf and on behalf of her son’s estate. Joining Fontenot in the lawsuit is LaKayja Myers who is the mother of Fontenot’s surviving child.
The Petition for Damages that was filed in the Evangeline Parish Clerk of Court Office on May 10 states, “Defendant, Whitney Guillory, was present in a Lafayette Parish hotel room with Colby when that apparent suicide occurred. Upon information and belief, the gun used is believed to be owned by Defendant, Whitney Guillory, and/or her spouse.”
According to the petition, Guillory formed a relationship with Fontenot when he was assigned to her English class in 2014. “Ms. Guillory began contacting Colby regularly, during and after school hours, fostering a close, personal and emotional relationship with her student,” stated the petition. “Her methods of grooming Colby for an inappropriate relationship included, but were not limited to, providing additional tutoring, flirting, encouraging after school contact, and initiating cell phone communication.”
The petition also states relationship between the parties became intimate as the school year progressed and continued until the time of Fontenot’s suicide on May 4, 2017, at which time he was over the age of majority.
Listed in the petition are damages that the plaintiffs claim Fontenot experienced because of the inappropriate relationship. Among them are mental anguish and emotional distress, humiliation and adverse notoriety, and damage to his personal reputation. These damages, according to the lawsuit, “led to depression, illegal drug use, and anxiety.”
The Evangeline Parish School Board is a co-defendant in the lawsuit on belief of “prior instances of inappropriate sexual contact between Evangeline Parish School Board employees, possibly including defendant, Whitney Guillory, and students.” The petition went on to allege, “Despite this history, the Evangeline Parish School Board failed to take adequate and effective measures to prevent future abuse and protect students.”
Listed among the alleged acts of negligence on the part of the school board are failing to adequately screen its teachers including Guillory, failing to educate and train its teachers on appropriate student-teacher boundaries, and failing to establish and enforce an appropriate policy to protect students from inappropriate sexual contact by teachers.
Fontenot’s mother Misty along with Myers filed the lawsuit in part over wrongful death, which is asserted to “the psychiatric and psychological conditions Colby suffered with at and before his untimely passing as a result of the relationship he had with Whitney Guillory, which inappropriately began while he was a minor student of the Evangeline Parish School Board.”
The plaintiffs are looking to recover, through this civil action filed by Opelousas attorney Dwazendra J. Smith, “an amount to be determined by (the) Honorable Court with legal interest thereon from the date of judicial demand, all costs of these proceedings, and such further and other equitable relief as (the) Court deems just and proper.”
The case will be heard before the Honorable Chuck R. West.
Superintendent of Evangeline Parish Public Schools Darwan Lazard responded in a statement to The Ville Platte Gazette, “Our practice is not to comment on any pending litigation.”