Sheriff-elect warns WSJE students to stay on right path

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2012



EDGARD – With a delicate mix of humor and straight talk, St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff-elect Mike Tregre spent Monday afternoon addressing a full auditorium of West St. John Elementary students about focus and respect in and out of the classroom.

“I think you guys and girls might have it a little easier than I did when I was in school,” Tregre said. “I was taught by nuns, and when you got out of line you fell victim to the paddle. I will admit that there were times when I got the paddle, and it happened in front of everyone in the school. When it happens enough times you realize that it isn’t for you, and that is what I want from you.”

Tregre stressed to the students the importance of making valuable decisions when it comes to choosing friends. He said the right group of friends could mean the difference between a productive life and one spent behind bars.

“Those who lack focus will always look for another person to follow that wrong path,” Tregre said. “I don’t know if I will reach everyone or save everyone in this room. I also know that this talk is not for everyone in this room. You guys get it. You have what it takes to be successful, but you have to work hard to get there.”

Tregre’s appearance Monday was part of a series of talks at West St. John Elementary between students and various members of the community that have focused on respect, classroom behavior and possibilities for the future. Principal Serina Duke said the talks, which are part of the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program, offer another perspective to students who might need it.

“They have become so good at tuning us out because they hear this stuff from us regularly,” Duke said. “If they hear it from someone else, especially someone like our parish’s new sheriff, some of it could stick with them.”

Tregre spent some of his talk describing some of the things inmates in the parish jail must deal with in a typical day. As an example, he used something as simple as watching television in the evening.

“How many of you watched the Super Bowl Sunday?” Tregre asked as hands shot up in the auditorium. “Well, inside the jail, we have one television to serve more than 100 inmates. Those who want to watch TV must vote on what to watch. Why would you want to be in a place where you have to vote on what you are allowed to do? Why would you want to be in a place where showers have no curtains and bathrooms have no doors?”

Tregre talked of shutting off a part of the jail so that it could be opened for tours for some of the younger members of the community.

“I want to take you all to see it,” said Tregre. “I want you to see what happens in St. John Parish jail. You need to see what it looks like, what it smells like. You all are not built for jail, and I want you to stay out of it.”