Judge orders closing of elementary school to comply with decades-long desegregation case

St. Martin Parish

ST. MARTIN PARISH (KLFY) – An elementary school in St. Martin Parish is on the chopping block. It’s a requirement to settle a decades-long desegregation case.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote has ordered the closure of Catahoula Elementary, and found the school district failed to treat black students and black teachers equally, as well as failed to address racial inequity in academic achievement.

Catahoula Elementary, which has a nearly all-white student population, opened in 1936. Those students are expected to attend the two historically black elementary schools in the St. Martinville area next year.

St. Martin Parish School Board President Russel Foti posted the news on his Facebook page.

“It is with a sad heart…Catahoula Elementary will close as per the judge’s order. We will meet again on the judge’s decision in July after our lawyers review them to make suggestions to us on how to proceed. In closing, time was not on our side. I pray God will guide us in a direction that will prove to be in Catahoula’s best interest,” said Foti.

The desegregation lawsuit was filed against St. Martin Parish Schools in 1968, on behalf of black students and staff, to require the district to comply with the landmark case Brown vs. Board of Education.

The case bounced around the court system for decades. In 2016, Judge Foote laid out a roadmap for St. Martin Parish Schools to correct racial disparities within the district, but it didn’t get done.

St. Martin Parish schools currently have approximately 7,000 students, roughly half black, half white.

“The district has not only a shallow obligation to make efforts, but it has a requirement to make real effort to not only attempt to remove the legacy and the stain of racial discrimination and current acts of discrimination, but it has a requirement to affirmatively and with real commitment to address these extreme racial disparities,” said Monique Lin-Luse, senior council for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The attorneys on both sides will go back to court later, to revise the original roadmap to improve the situation, and possibly establish a timeline. The school district will remain under federal court oversight for the time being.

We reached out to St. Martin Parish Schools Superintendent Al Blanchard, but we have not yet heard back from him.

Click here to read the judge’s order.

Click here to read information on the desegregation case on the St. Martin Parish School District website.

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