Sullivan Name to Change Next Year
Bishop's Move Stuns Parents, Students
By Charles Lussier
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
November 11, 2004
As a little girl, Carley McCord remembers riding in the car past Bishop Sullivan High School and listening to her parents talk.
"They would say, 'That's where you're going to go to high school,' " she recalled.
On Wednesday afternoon, though, Carley, now a sophomore at the school, learned she won't be going to a school called Bishop Sullivan next year.
Bishop Robert Muench told a school assembly that a man had come forward claiming that the school's namesake, who died in 1982, had sexually abused him when he was 17 years old.
"My stomach just kind of dropped," McCord said.
Muench then dropped another bombshell. By February, he will announce a new name for the school. The Sullivan name will remain through the current school year.
McCord said she understands the reasoning, and a name is just a name, but that doesn't make things any easier.
Carley's sister, Kaleigh, a junior, had just ordered her class ring; now it will have to be remade.
"It will be Bishop Sullivan in spirit, but not Bishop Sullivan as a name," she said.
Her father, Tracy, said the school, which he considers wonderful, is more than its name.
"We're heartbroken by it, but the true heart and spirit of the school will continue," he said.
School administrators would not discuss the sudden turn of events, referring all questions to diocese spokesman, Bob Furlow.
Several people in the greater school community whom The Advocate approached for reaction Wednesday afternoon had not heard the news. Many were stunned and had little to say.
"This is all quite a shock," said Lou Clouatre, who was a teacher at the school for many years.
Ken VanZandt's son, Perry, just began ninth grade at Bishop Sullivan. He's said he's been happy so far with the school.
"The school is better than its name," he said. "A name change isn't going to have any change on our feelings."
VanZandt read a letter Muench had the students take home to their parents.
"If the allegations are true, I definitely think the name should be changed," he said. "You don't want that name on the school anymore."
Tracy McCord has more mixed feelings. He's wants to know more about the allegation to see if it justifies such a drastic response.
"I'm reluctant to rush things like this unless there was such unbelievable evidence and documented evidence," he said. "I'm not sure that this warrants this man's name being besmirched."
Catholic churches throughout the area will also read a letter from Muench during church services Sunday, Furlow said.
Bishop Sullivan High, which opened its doors in 1983, was the fourth Catholic high school in East Baton Rouge Parish. Originally, it was going to be called St. Michael the Archangel High School. After Bishop Sullivan died in September 1982, the diocese agreed to rename the yet-to-be-built school in his honor, Furlow said.
Jane Boyce and her late husband, James, raised money to help build the new school. At the time, the three Catholic high schools in Baton Rouge were full and had waiting lists.
"The list of those turned away from the three existing schools was long," she said. "There was a real need."
Boyce said Bishop Sullivan recognized the need for a new school, but raising money wasn't easy, she said.
"We had a very, very severe drop in income. It was a depression in the 1980s," she said. "There were wonderful parents who gave so much of their time and talents. Those who could give, gave."
Since the school began, Boyce has stayed involved, serving for a time on the school's advisory board. Now, her granddaughter attends the school.
"As you can tell, I love it," he said. "I really think it's a jewel."
Carley McCord said ever since Bishop Muench's announcement students have been calling and instant messaging each other. Reaction is ranging wildly, she said.
"There were kids who were, like, it's just a name, and there were others who were, like, we're going to have to change our uniforms, and then others are worried that others are going to make fun of them," she said.
Carley, who competes in track and in weightlifting, said she's dreading going to sporting events. She expects she'll have to explain why the school has a new name.
Bishop Muench's visit Wednesday was all the more strange for Carley because the bishop had much different things to say when he attended a school mass a couple of weeks earlier. She recalled that he talked about how great a school Bishop Sullivan is, but he didn't stop there.
"He was saying how great it was that Bishop Sullivan was the name of our school, how it came from such a wonderful person," she said.
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