Quick resolution of deseg oversight slim
It’s been more than 50 years since the ongoing school desegregation case was filed, and the St. Martin School Board is still struggling to meet a myriad of mandates imposed by federal courts.
And while it appeared the parish had met all requirements in the early 1970s, it was later discovered that the case had never been formally closed and plaintiffs, assisted by attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc., petitioned to reactivate the lawsuit.
In 2015 U.S. District Judge Elizaeth Erny Foote intervened, ruling that the parish school system did not meet all the standards of being a unitary system devoid of any racial discrimination and imposed a number of requirements on the system.
In 2016 school attendance zones were reconfigured and the grade makeup of schools in Catahoula and St. Martinville as well as Parks and Breaux Bridge were adjusted in an effort to achieve more “racial parity.”
Since that time the board has been required to adjust its policies regarding athletics/extracurricular activities, staff and faculty assignment, transportation, quality of education and discipline, and facilities with the objective of getting a judicial ruling of unitary status in each category.
The court has required the creation of special committees and the filing of voluminous reports in order for the parish to comply with its mandates.
Thus far, the only category granted unitary status has been athletics and extra curricular activities.
The board has filed a motion for unitary status in the area of faculty and staff assignment and that is currently pending before the court.
Board attorneys are also negotiating with the plaintiffs regarding the area of transportation but no specific date has been set as to when the parish can seek unitary status in that area.
And the soonest the board can hope to file for unitary status in the areas of student assignment, discipline and quality of education is this coming August.
And regarding facilities, the board must first complete a series of mandated improvements to Breaux Bridge Jr. High before submitting a motion for unitary status in that category.
Pamela W. Dill with the firm of Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guicer LLP, the Baton Rouge attorneys hired by the board to represent the parish in this matter, said that the anticipated dates for filings and final court action on the remaining areas “are dependent on multiple factors, including the court’s calendar as well as good faith cooperative with the plaintiff parties to reach agreements favorable to resolution of the issues.”