St. Martin school board hopes to end desegregation suit



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BREAUX BRIDGE, La. (AP) — The St. Martin Parish School Board heads to federal court next month with a plan to diversify the 92 percent white student population at Catahoula Elementary and end the parish's 51-year-old desegregation case.

On Monday, The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1TPAxTX) the school board rejected a proposal its attorneys had negotiated to close the PreK-8 school or operate it with only 50 students in preschool through first grade. The board opted instead to accept keep Catahoula and all other schools in the district open.

Acceptance of that proposal would have brought the board a step closer to resolving the desegregation case, which district officials assumed was closed in 1974. It was resurrected a few years ago when it was discovered the case and others across the country had never been officially closed.

The board's attorneys hoped to avoid a trial and informed board members that opposing counsel had indicated that it would not require changes at any other schools in the district, if the board addressed the racial imbalance at Catahoula Elementary.

St. Martin Parish Schools Superintendent Lottie Beebe referred questions about efforts to resolve the case to the board's attorney, Pam Dill.

During a hearing scheduled for Jan. 19 in federal court, board attorneys will present plans to address issues of student assignment and quality of education, said Dill, of Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice, the firm handling the desegregation lawsuit on behalf of the School Board.

Part of the School Board's plan filed with the court involves creating a magnet program focused on Cajun and zydeco music and heritage at Catahoula Elementary as a way to attract students from across the parish to the small, rural school. However, opposing counsel indicated it doesn't believe that plan is an effective way to desegregate the school, Dill said.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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The Associated Press

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