East St. John community unites

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 18, 2009

By David Vitrano


RESERVE—A parking lot overflowing with cars was the first clue something was amiss at Thursday evening’s St. John School Board meeting.

Then, as one approached the building, scores of people stood outside the doors as deputies blocked further entry to the meeting room.

Upon entering, the walls and every available space inside was crowded with individuals donning black and gold, the colors of East St. John High School. Scores of coaches, players and parents had come out to the meeting to show their support for the school’s athletic director and head football coach, Larry Dauterive.

Last week, a comment by Dauterive — he reportedly used the N-word while addressing his players after a loss to St. Charles Catholic — led to a one-game suspension and the inclusion of a discussion of the incident on the evening’s agenda.

Some board members had suggested the penalty was insufficient.

Although the discussion was initially further down the agenda, in response to the gathered crowd Board President Gerald Keller moved it be switched to an earlier slot, and the board retreated to the back room just after the opening prayer and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

During the ensuing 30-minute break, a number of Dauterive’s supporters voiced their distaste for the punishment that had been meted out and their opposition to any further action.

Mose Simmons, a volunteer coach at East St. John, while admitting Dauterive did, in fact, say the word in question, reaffirmed the manner in which it was said. He said the coach was repeating something his wife had overheard one of the spectators on the St. Charles Catholic side say upon witnessing some bad behavior by East St. John players when exiting the field.

“It was a secondary conversation. … He never set out to call anybody anything,” said Simmons.

He went on to say many of the coaches were offended they were not asked about the incident before action was taken.

“Nobody wants to know what he said,” he noted.

Speaking of the resultant firestorm, Simmons said, “We were dumbfounded.”

Then, as the board members emerged from the back room at 6:30, the crowd fell silent, and Superintendent Courtney Millet issued a brief statement regarding the situation.

“Everyone is aware last week that we had an issue to deal with regarding East St. John school athletics. After an investigation, meeting with legal counsel and very strong consideration, action was taken. Now it is time to move on to educating our students,” she said.

Shortly after that, apparently satisfied, Dauterive exited the building, and his supporters filed out behind him.

The coach called the massive show of support “heartwarming.”

Although he declined to comment in the immediate aftermath of the incident, Dauterive had something to say about it Thursday. “A lot of things that were said were misconstrued, but justice always prevails,” he said.

“I didn’t mean to offend anybody, and I’m sorry if I did. Do I regret saying it? Absolutely. But hopefully we have closure and can move on to the next chapter in our lives.”