Matthew Albright / Houma Courier
Parish school officials say their investigation has cleared South Terrebonne's principal of allegations that he harassed interracial couples at the school.
The local NAACP official who made the accusations, however, said he remains unconvinced.
Jerome Boykin, president of the Terrebonne chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, complained to school officials last week.
Boykin accused principal Dane Voisin last week of calling two female white students into his office and encouraging them to break up with their black boyfriends because of their race.
But schools Superintendent Philip Martin said Monday that his administration has performed a thorough investigation that determined Voisin is innocent.
Voisin said he was consulting an attorney and declined to respond to The Courier and Daily Comet's questions.
Martin said he had three members of the school system office's staff investigate the complaints.
“The kids confirmed that there was no racism involved,” Martin said. “He is 1,000 percent innocent of what he's been accused of.”
Martin said he couldn't provide the students' names or give details of what they said because the students are minors.
Voisin and Martin are white.
School Board member Roosevelt Thomas, who is black, said he is satisfied the investigation was thorough.
“The story looks like it has definitely changed,” he said.
Thomas said he believes the principal did have a discussion with the students but that the conversation wasn't racially charged.
“The kids say they weren't called in for that purpose, and the content of the language wasn't as bad as it was made to sound,” he said. “And none of the parents came forward with any complaints, so I don't think there's any evidence he did anything wrong.”
Thomas, who objected to Voisin's appointment as principal after citing concerns with the hiring process, said last week that he would closely watch the investigation unfold and would “do everything I can to make sure this gets made right.”
Thomas said he doesn't think any action needs to be taken against Voisin.
“I wasn't on a witch hunt or anything,” Thomas said. “If the investigation had turned out differently, I'd have pursued it, but I don't think we need to do anything at this point.”
Boykin, however, said he isn't satisfied with the investigation.
“This is obviously a cover-up,” Boykin said. “The superintendent is more intent on avoiding the embarrassment rather than the truth coming out.”
Boykin claims the investigators didn't talk to all four members of the two interracial couples he alleges Voisin harassed. He also said the school system didn't talk to a bus driver who claims one of the students boarded her bus crying after meeting with Voisin.
Martin said he wouldn't discuss exactly which students and employees were interviewed but said the investigators talked to “multiple students and multiple staff members.”
As evidence of a possible cover-up, Boykin pointed to a written statement he got from one of the students that says Voisin had questioned that student about his or her relationship. Boykin also pointed to Facebook posts complaining that the principal tried to tell one of the couples not to “be together” during school hours.
But neither the statement nor the posts mention race or racism.
Boykin said he heard about the alleged racially charged remarks from a student who was involved.
But the mother of that student, in an interview Monday, said the whole incident was blown out of proportion.
“Something was discussed between her and Voisin. It was not all ‘Stay away from the black boy.' ” the mother, who is white, said.
The mother, who asked that her and her child's names not be used, said the couple hugged each other every day before boarding the school bus.
Voisin told her child that the pair needed to “kind of have some distance,” the mother said, adding that she told her child to “be a little more low-key about it.”
The mother said neither she nor her child intended for racially charged accusations to surface against Voisin.
But Boykin maintained the student told him the remarks were racially charged.
“That's not what they told me, and that's not what they told the bus driver,” Boykin said. “I think the school system strong-armed (the student) into saying this.”
One of the other students, who is black, said in an interview Monday that race was not involved in the discussion with the principal. The written statement the student provided Boykin says Voisin summoned the student to his office because of an unrelated disciplinary issue. During that meeting, the student's statement reads, Voisin asked about the relationship. The statement doesn't mention anything about racially charged remarks.
School officials say the matter has been resolved and Voisin will not face any punishment.
“This is done with,” Thomas said. “We want to get back to educating students and get this behind us.”