Louisiana School District Declared Desegregated

     MONROE, La. (CN) – A federal judge in Louisiana has approved a consent agreement between the federal government and a school board in the state effectively declaring the successful end of a desegregation effort that has been going on for 43 years.
     The West Carroll School Board oversees eight schools in West Carroll Parish in northeastern Louisiana, five of which the government previously found to be “racially identifiable.”
     The consent order issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Robert James said that following a struggle with desegregation that has gone on since 1969, the board’s eight schools have finally been declared unitary in almost every respect. The two issues remaining have to do with student assignment and student discipline.
     James’ order said that after a 1969 move by the government to dismantle the duel school system in order to desegregate “vestiges of racial discrimination” remained, and desegregation orders were again issued for the schools in 1976 and 1991.
     A decade later, in 2001, the government began an investigation of student transfer policies that led to a 2007 judgment from Judge James that unitary status must be achieved in the school district. A consent order was entered between the government and the school district the following month, on March 14, 2007.
     The 2007 consent order found that three of the board’s eight schools remained “virtually all-white,” while two others remained “racially identifiable,” and anticipated that unitary status in the area of student assignment would be reached by the end of the 2010- 2011 school year.
     James’ 2007 ruling also found that “white students from the largely black Eudora, Arkansas school district were, until 2003, allowed to attend schools in West Carroll and that extracurricular activities, such as homecoming court elections, ha[d] continued to be race-based at one or more schools.”
     Friday’s consent order said the school board has become unitary with regard to teacher assignment, transportation and extracurricular activities.
     The consent order said the “sole remaining issues identified by the United States regarding the Board’s operations of its schools relate to the factor of student assignment, and more specifically,” one school, Goodwill Elementary School, remains racially identifiable. Also, student discipline is administered in a way that creates racial disparity, the order said.
     Friday’s consent order said that according to research from 2010 the percentage of African-American students who were disciplined in West Carroll Parish often exceeded, and in several instances far exceeded, the African-American percentage of enrollment at the schools, while the percentage of white students who were disciplined was often lower than the white percentage of enrollment.
     “For example, 78.9% of the students who received detention at Oak Grove Elementary School were African-American despite the fact that African-American students comprised only 21.2% of the enrollment at the school,” Friday’s consent order said.
     Further, the government found that African-American students were more likely than their white counterparts to be disciplined for “subjective offense,” such as disrespect, disruption and inappropriate language.
     The new consent order said that going forward all teachers will be required to undergo disciplinary training, and the board will adopt a single policy for discipline by the end of the 2013 school year.

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