ST. HELENA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - United States Attorney Brandon Fremin announced Wednesday the successful resolution of Louisiana's oldest current school desegregation case, which involved the St. Helena Parish Public School District.
Back in 1952, Robert Carter and others filed action saying the St. Helena Parish School Board was operating a racially dual system in violation of the 14th Amendment. The Justice Department then joined the litigation as a plaintiff-intervenor in 1961. The case actually pre-dated the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The complaint under which this historic lawsuit was filed was signed by Thurgood Marshall before he was on the Supreme Court.
Then on May 20, 1960, the Supreme Court entered an order enjoining the state and the St. Helena Parish School Board from excluding African American students from public schools because of their race. Since then, the U.S. District Court has overseen the school district's efforts to comply with the court order and ordered the desegregation of the district's schools. This oversight would continue until the school district achieved unitary status, which it just recently reached. To reach unitary status, a school must demonstrate it has eliminated intentional segregation in student and faculty assignment; transportation, extracurricular activities, and facilities.
A judge issued a ruling on April 5, 2016 declaring that the district had in fact reached unitary status in all areas except student assignment. On February 15, all parties of the litigation filed a joint motion seeking dismissal of the action and a declaration that the district had reached unitary status.
On Wednesday, March 14, a judge granted the joint motion, dissolving all injunctions from the action and dismissing the matter with prejudice.
"Today is a historic day for all the people of St. Helena Parish. The road to desegregating our schools has undoubtedly been challenging and marked by great difficulties, but it is a road that had to be traveled, both legally and morally. I commend Chief Judge Jackson and his predecessors, including the late Judges Brady and Parker, as well as the parties and their attorneys, for their collective dedication to this important and historic matter," said Fremin.
"We commend the St. Helena Parish School District for satisfying its remaining obligations in this case and ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students. We have been pleased to work with the district to resolve outstanding issues and bring the case to a successful close," said Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division John Gore.