ST. MARTIN PARISH, La. (KLFY) – There was a special board meeting over the desegregation of Catahoula Elementary school and the appeals court ruling to decide what will happen next.
It has been five decades of court battles to desegregate Catahoula Elementary School and approval to have it reopened has not been changed by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We’re no closer to having answers. Right now, we feel like children that are in the middle of a divorce, and the board, they’re the parents,” said Elleanor Batiste, disappointed.
Many express that the school needs to be diverse with more Black students. Still, many parents who attended the meeting expressed a preference of their kids staying with their neighbors rather than travel and wake up early to bring their children to schools in St. Martin Parish. The same goes for Black parents having to have their children leave St. Martin Parish to go to Catahoula Elementary if it opens.
Batiste, a concerned parent, shared her opinions with the school board.
“My concern is we don’t want our baby to leave our communities. Where we live in St. Martinville has a lot of people who don’t have transportation to get their kids to and from school,” stated Batiste.
She asked, “if you put them on a bus, how far will they have to travel? You won’t have parent participation. If a kid gets sick, how are their parents going to be able to get them?”
Batiste added that many people in St. Martin Parish live in the city because there are all kinds of subsidized housing and a lot of the people have low incomes. She said everyone wants the best for their children.
Another parent at the meeting expressed to the school board members that, “the Black people don’t want it, and the white people don’t want it.” She commented in regards to the school board vote to have to finalize a new plan to desegregate the school and decide where the children will be located.
“I understand that we’re all looking for what’s best for our kids and to keep them in our neighborhood, but at the same time, we have to sit down and look at the whole picture. Who benefits?” asked Batiste. “We can’t have some kids benefit, and other people are at a disadvantage.”
Overall, the meeting ended with someone speaking to the crowd, saying there are some court rules in play that make the opinion the school board had in place not final yet. Therefore, the 5th circuit must issue a mandate before the opinion becomes final.
“Which means as of today, the board does not yet have the authority to reopen Catahoula,” the woman said.
The school board was sent back to the drawing board and has to decide on a new plan.
“The words of the 5th circuit are to implement other reasonable, feasible, and workable remedies, so the school board needs time to figure out what those remedies are going to be and to formulate a new plan,” she said.
After the meeting was closed, conversations did get tense and heated outside, and someone tried to stop News 10 from recording. However, it is clear everyone needs answers and wants their children to stay in their communities.
“I like to keep our kids in our neighborhood, and it would be nice if it could be about the kids. Not Black or white, just what’s best for the children. All children concerned,” said Batiste.
News 10 reached out to the superintendent for further comments and said they would allow their attorneys to speak on the matter.