Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper sent a message to public school teachers Tuesday afternoon giving his blessing to their attendance Thursday at a planned rally against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed education reforms. But in a robo-call and email to educators, Cooper urged teachers to take an excused absence and to find a substitute in advance, not simply call in sick on Thursday:

I’m calling about the rallies planned for Baton Rouge this week. First, I want you all to know that I respect your right to participate in this process. We respect 100% your right to be a part of this conversation.

I know some of you are planning to go, some aren’t and some haven’t made up your minds. I want to ask you to consider a few things.

I want you to know that we will have school on Thursday. We owe it to our students and their parents to keep those children in school. While adults are discussing education in Baton Rouge, learning should be going on in our classrooms.

There are legitimate ways for you to take personal leave and attend this event. If you want to go, I’m asking that you take care of your business right away, by turning in your personal leave, securing a substitute to take care of your students and leaving appropriate lesson plans.

I’m asking that you not damage your professionalism or that of the system by calling in sick to attend this event. Please don’t diminish your integrity in the eyes of your students, or give the appearance of dishonesty to the community that entrusts their children to us. We are trying to rebuild trust and support within our community. I’m asking that you don’t damage that effort by misusing sick leave as a way to participate.

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