For Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion, lying and bullying are unacceptable - unless, that is, he's doing the bullying.For Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion, lying and bullying are unacceptable - unless, that is, he's doing the bullying.
Chassion made clear his distaste for lying and bulling during a 21-minute diatribe delivered during last week's marathon (clocking in at about 6.5 hours) school board meeting, shortly after the board voted 6-3 to reprimand Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper for an alleged policy violation stemming from his refusal to fire Thad Welch over his lack of a high school diploma.
"For me, it's the being lied to that really affects me," Chassion said. "I can't take being lied to behind closed doors. I can't take being lied to on the board floor. I just can't take those things."
With countless issues affecting the school system and its 30,000 students, Chassion's rant focused almost entirely on personal issues. It was rife with allegations aimed at a number of unnamed "bullies" he's encountered, all a result, he claims, of his noble fight to ensure policy - as it relates to Welch - is upheld.
"In addressing this issue, I didn't know that within the last two months I'd have five flat tires on my car," he said. "Now, my tires aren't cheap. Five flat tires? I don't work near any construction sites. [These] aren't random nails that I would hope to pick up. One? Maybe. Two? Strangely. Three, four, five? That's amazing."
Chassion's right. According to a price quote from Moss Motors, one tire for a 2013 BMW, like the one Chassion owns, comes in at a whopping $500. Not cheap, though repairing a tire deflated by a nail is pretty cheap. Yet what's perhaps more perplexing than Chassion's claim of getting five flats in two months is that not one police report was filed with the Lafayette Police Department, which would have allowed the board member to file an insurance claim.
Chassion continued his end-of-meeting monologue by sharing another story, this one a tall tale involving this reporter, the men's restroom and our knowledge of his 2001 felony arrest on two counts of attempted monetary instrument abuse, or attempting to use counterfeit $20 bills at local businesses.
Though we've since detailed our version of what really happened - an account backed by a lone witness, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau's husband - here's how Chassion, the man who had only minutes before expressed his disdain for lies, recounted his version of the incident before the public and his fellow board members:
As I proceed to move away from him he slides with me. I move the other way, he slides with me again, finally to the point of putting hands on me and refusing to let me leave out of the bathroom. Hence the reason I was outside of the school board office tonight speaking with the police officers for that long a period.
He certainly has quite the imagination.
What Chassion didn't recall before waving the anti-bullying flag was his recent actions at an LPSS Social Studies Fair, and the effect those actions had on four volunteers working the event.
According to statements filed by those individuals, the actions of Chassion and one of his brothers - it's unclear whether the brother mentioned by all four volunteers was Tony Chassion Jr. or City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin - reveal it is this school board member himself who does not like to play by the rules.
Below is a statement detailing just how the actions of Chassion and his unnamed brother affected teacher Shari Holleman, one of the volunteers at the Jan. 27 event. She writes:
After registering students at my station for about half an hour, I was approached by a man (who I later learned was Temmi Chaisson [sic]) who told me that he wanted me to go outside because he needed to talk to me. I told him I was working and could not leave but he insisted and said it would only take a minute. I then turned my station over to a coworker and when I got outside I noticed his brother was with him. I was not at all comfortable with the situation. He told me that his brother had told him that I was rude to him. His brother also started to say the same. I [said:] "Actually sir, he was rude to me." They then both started to talk and berate me and kept saying something about lying. I had no idea what they were talking about and was about to walk away when Janet Pope (who had been called by others when they assessed the situation) came outside. [She] pulled Temmi away and said she wanted to talk to him in private. I was left with the first brother and was not about to stand there and be fussed at again, so I walked over to Janet and Temmi but when I realized they were having a private conversation, I went back inside and resumed doing my job.
Here's how Janet Pope, one of the event's organizers, recounts the incident:
My secretary came to me during the presentation to tell me that a board member [Chassion] asked my registration volunteer to step outside. When I asked if the volunteer had stepped outside, my secretary said the volunteer felt as though she had no choice when asked by Mr. Chassion so she did step outside. My secretary later explained that the volunteer said that she explained to Mr. Chassion that we were on a time frame to register students and parents. She was trying to limit the time she would be away from the registration table. She was assured by Mr. Chassion that it would only take a minute. So the volunteer stepped outside.
I left the presentation that I was giving to the judges and went outside. I witnessed Mr. Chassion and the man who brought his daughter to set up her project earlier talking to [Holleman]. When I walked up, I asked what was going on, and [Holleman] replied, I have no idea. Mr. Chassion stated that my volunteer called the man that brought his daughter a liar in front of everyone at the registration entrance. I asked my volunteer to report to her table so we didn't run behind schedule (we had 86 projects in the parish Social Studies Fair this year). I asked Mr. Chassion to step aside with me alone so I could talk to him. Volunteer high school and university students were witnessing what was taking place along with parents who have already registered their students outside the registration area and it was my intention to defuse the situation.
Once Mr. Chassion agreed to walk away with me, the man that had accompanied his daughter attempted to follow us. I asked that gentleman to please leave the premises. I asked Mr. Chassion to think about his daughter and all that she witnessed.
During the judging, it was reported to me that Mr. Chassion had returned back in the judging area 4 times. Each time he was asked to leave by volunteers stating that it was against the rules for parents to be in the judging area.
[Editor's Note: The IND made a public records request on Feb. 27 after learning of the above incident and received the records that day; at that time, we decided not to immediately pursue this story. However, after Chassion's remarks at last week's meeting, including his false allegations against this reporter and claims that he is a victim of bullying, we decided that the story had become much more relevant.]For more on the school board member, his questionable ethics and his own ideas about what it means to "follow policy," read the April-May issue of ABiz Monday, and click below for two brief snippets of Chassion's monologue.