BREAUX BRIDGE, La. (KLFY) — St. Martin Parish Public School Superintendent Allen Blanchard has issued a statement on the court-ordered closure of Catahoula Elementary.
The closure is part of the desegregation lawsuit 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 federal order is forcing the closure of Catahoula Elementary. Students will be transferred to the Early Learning Center or St. Martinville Primary School.
The St. Martin Parish School Board has been the defendant in a desegregation case that was first instituted in 1965. In 1974, the United States District Court found that the Board had achieved unitary status; however, in 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that no judgment was ever issued to dismiss the case. Since that time, the Board has been working, diligently and in good faith, to meet certain desegregation obligations set by orders entered in 2015 and 2016 by the federal court. Since that time, the Court has found that the Board acted in good faith and met its obligations in the areas of extra-curricular activities, transportation, facilities, and staff assignment and has dismissed the desegregation case as to those factors.
On June 21, 2021, the federal judge issued a 161-page decision finding that the Board had, in good faith, met its obligations and achieved unitary status in the additional areas of course assignment, graduation rates, and in-grade retention rates. However, the federal judge also engaged in a lengthy analysis to render its opinion that further relief was necessary to fully desegregate the District in the areas of student assignment, faculty assignment, discipline, and graduation pathways. As a result of such findings, the Court issued a number of orders that require the Board to take certain actions.
The Court ordered the Board to close Catahoula Elementary School and to transfer its students to the Early Learning Center or St. Martinville Primary School as a means to further desegregate those St. Martinville elementary grade schools. The Board is compelled to comply with this federal court order; therefore, the Administration is presently taking the steps necessary to comply with the order. In accordance with it, this change will take effect as of the 2021-2022 school year.
Catahoula Elementary parents, faculty, and staff should expect to receive further information from the Administration within the next few weeks. Please be on the alert for mail, email, and Jcalls concerning this ordered action. The Board and Administration understand the emotions and disruptions involved in this matter; however, please be assured that all reasonable steps are being taken to ensure a smooth transition as the Board complies with this federal court order.
The Court also ordered a number of other actions be taken in the areas of student assignment, faculty assignment, discipline, and graduation pathways. As the Board engages in further examination of its options related to these areas in light of the Court’s decision, further information will be provided. The Board and the Administration appreciate the continued understanding, consideration, and cooperation of parents, students, faculty, staff, and the public.Superintendent Allen Blanchard