Sources: EBR School investigation complete
BATON ROUGE - Multiple sources confirmed to the WBRZ News 2 Investigative Unit Friday that the state's investigation into the East Baton Rouge Parish School System is complete. Those sources also confirmed the investigation is "significant" and has been turned over to law enforcement.
News 2 has learned the Legislative Auditor and the Inspector General's Office now have copies of the report.
The Investigative Unit was there as EBR School Board President David Tatman and Vice-President Tarvald Smith walked out of the State Department of Education Building Friday. They confirmed they were having a meeting about the completed report, but declined to comment on what was in it. Prior to that meeting, Superintendent of Education John White had a meeting with three lawmakers about the report, including Representative Pat Smith.
"It's quite interesting right after we left a meeting with the Superintendent where he emphatically said he was not going to the press on this, I guess someone from his department decided they were encouraged or enticed to call the news media, that this has been turned over to law enforcement," Smith said.
In January, News 2 reported the state had launched an investigation into the East Baton Rouge Parish School System surrounding a graduation discrepancy. That discrepancy involved a student who was related to a school board member's relative who received a fraudulent diploma. News 2 has learned the student did not meet graduation requirements but still managed to graduate.
There were also allegations of cheating in the school system during online testing. There were allegations that students were allowed to cheat during the online tests and allegations about a lack of supervision during test taking.
News 2 has learned that law enforcement will have easier access to vital school records that the school system didn't fully release to the state Department of Education.
"I'm not going to comment on the report itself until superintendent and staff have an opportunity to respond to allegations and that way I have both sides," Smith said.
The news of the investigation caused a stir. East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Bernard Taylor did an interview where he denied any wrongdoing in January. However, he refused to answer key questions about the investigation into the school system.
"I'm not going to entertain any question that has no legitimacy with an answer," Taylor said in a January interview.
Today, EBR School Spokesman Keith Bromery released this statement: "The district is withholding comment on the audit findings until it receives the official report and has the opportunity to review it."
Two months ago, members of the state's education delegation held a press conference supporting the public school system.
"This is truly a coup," Representative Pat Smith said during a press conference on January 15. "Someone has put out false information on the system, and I believe it comes from the pullout of St. George."
Leaders of the St. George effort immediately denied having any involvement.
"I think it says a lot when the Department of Education is investigating you, and your first instinct is to not address the investigation and point your finger at someone else," St. George Spokesman Lionel Rainey said in January.
News 2 has learned the report could be released as early as next week. The State Department of Education did not get back to us by news time.