Parents express concern about principal's abrupt leave of absence

- “I think a lot of parents are confused. I think a lot of parents were caught off guard,” parent India Gaston said.

Gaston expressed the feelings of hundreds of parents who walked into a meeting at Riverside Drive Elementary School on Monday night.

They wanted to learn from the district why their principal Kesia Doucette had taken what the district describes as a "self-initiated leave of absence."

“LAUSD did not tell us anything,” parent Sardar Khan said. "They gave us the whole runaround. 'We can’t answer that, we can’t do this, we can’t legally release this information.'”

And that’s true. Per district policy, officials can’t publicly discuss confidential personnel matters. But supporters of Doucette have outwardly accused a small group of parents for bullying the principal.

Doucette, who is pictured on the charter school website, is African-American and some parents believe race played a part.

“This small group of people has this vendetta against her. They feel that she isn’t good for the school,” parent Kevin McNeal said.

But it’s not clear what exactly the problem is.

“Everything we hear is because of the way she dresses or because of the way she looks,” Khan said.

District officials would only say they had an issue with Doucette not following the district’s volunteer policy, allowing parents to volunteer more than 15 hours without filling out the required paperwork.

Nobody in the meeting would speak about why they don’t support the principal, so we tried to track them down outside, but they refused to speak on camera.

One member of the group said he was threatened when leaving the meeting.

The district called on parents to stop spreading rumors and try to get along, but the conflict is now extending to the classroom.

“We had a report today of a parent going into a classroom, unannounced and uninvited, and just staring down the teacher to intimidate her,” Dr. Scott Mandel, UTLA East Valley Area Chair, said.

Teachers have openly said they’re in support of their principal and they want her back.

“She’s a great leader and we as a staff produce because of her support and and her leadership,” third grade teacher Ivy Cher said.

The district has offered to bring in independent mediators to help parents address their differences.

It’s not clear if Doucette will return to the school, but there is an interim principal in place.

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