West Monroe High School quarterback Jon Randall Belton isn’t technically eligible to attend the school, a Ouachita Parish School District official said, but Randall’s eight years of attendance within the district will likely grandfather his status there.
Jon Randall Belton and his mother, Alana Belton, live in their West Monroe home during the week while father and husband John Belton works in Ruston, but John and Alana Belton’s homestead exemption is taken at their Ruston home.
Homestead exemption determines residency, said Gary Armstrong, director of child welfare and attendance for the Ouachita Parish School System.
The issue arose Friday because John Belton, a candidate for 3rd Judicial District Attorney for Lincoln and Union parishes, addressed his own residency in a public statement designed to deflect it as a campaign issue.
Belton said he issued his statement “to dispel the rumor” that the couple moved their son to West Monroe to play football.
Armstrong said the district’s policy is clear. “To be a legal student of the district you have to be a legal resident of Ouachita Parish, and that’s the bottom line,” he said.
But Jon Randall Belton has attended Ouachita Parish schools since he was in the third grade, which Armstrong said he considers a mitigating factor when determining whether to allow a student to continue to attend a system school.
“I can only speak for myself, but as far as I’m concerned nothing is going to happen (concerning Randall) unless someone files a complaint, and someone with authority asks us to revisit it,” Armstrong said.
“The kid has been in the system since he was in the third grade, and typically in a situation like that he’s considered to be a Ouachita Parish kid.”
John Belton, who must be a resident of Lincoln or Union parish to run for 3rd District Attorney, said he has lived and voted in Lincoln Parish since 1992. John Belton said his homestead exemption has also been in Lincoln Parish since 1992.
That makes Belton qualified to run for district attorney but potentially not for his son to attend West Monroe High School.
But West Monroe High School football coach Jerry Arledge said Armstrong didn’t know what he was talking about when discussing whether a student is able to legally attend a Ouachita Parish school.
“That’s not his expertise,” Arledge said of Armstrong. “He’s in truancy or some other part of the school board.
“I really don’t have any concerns, and the reason is as the rule states and I understand it, once he’s established eligibility for one year whether he sits out or not, he’s eligible,” Arledge said.
“Once you do that as I understand the rule, you are eligible in this parish. It doesn’t matter if you live in California, if you establish eligibility, you can play.
“I really don’t have any concerns and the reason is as the rule states and I understand it, once he’s established eligibility for one year whether he sits out or not, he’s eligible.”
Arledge said it’s common practice for student athletes to cross district lines.
“We have kids that play in West Monroe that live in Monroe,” Arledge said. “There’s probably kids that play at Neville that live in West Monroe. That doesn’t mean that they’re ineligible in those schools. That happens all the time.”
John and Alana Belton said they sent both of his children, Jon Randall and Alexis, to West Monroe schools eight years ago after it was determined Alexis would thrive under “a different educational format” provided in Ouachita Parish schools.
The couple said they approached Ouachita Parish officials eight years ago and were assured they were legally sending their children to school in the district.
The Beltons bought at second home in the Ouachita Parish School District and said school system officials told them cross-district exemptions were made for students with special needs like Alexis.
Alexis Belton graduated from West Monroe High School.
Jon Randall Belton, a former middle school All-American at Good Hope, is projected to start for West Monroe as a junior next fall.