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Jul 28, 2011 9:10 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP

Caldwell Parish schools free of federal oversight

MONROE, La. (AP) - Caldwell Parish schools are officially desegregated and no longer need federal approval of school districts, a federal judge has ruled. But the federal court based in Shreveport says a closer look is needed at Richland Parish schools.
U.S. District Judge Robbie James ruled earlier this month that the Caldwell Parish School District "has complied with the court's desegregation orders for a reasonable period of time and has eliminated the vestiges of past de jure discrimination to the extent practicable."
School systems must prove they have eliminated any trace of racial segregation regarding student assignment, faculty, staff, transportation, facilities and extracurricular activities.
But a report filed in June says black students in Richland Parish are suspended or expelled far more often than white students, and 11 of its 12 schools remain racially identifiable, The News-Star reported Thursday.
"In 2009-2010, black students were suspended or expelled 2,567 times while white students were only suspended or expelled 862 times," the report states. "This is almost a 3-to-1 ratio of black to white suspensions and expulsions."
It was also noted that schools within the district remained segregated.
"The racial identity of many of these schools has not changed since the original lawsuit in 1966," the report filed with the court in June states.
"The school board's racially identifiable schools have resulted in racially isolated extracurricular activities."
The report further said that the Justice Department will consult with the district in regard to the school board's policies and practices regarding student assignment, extracurricular activities, transportation, gifted and talented students and discipline, which it calls "concerns."
Most districts statewide, including Ouachita and City of Monroe, are seeking autonomy.
A report, commissioned at the direction of James and presented to Ouachita Parish by demographer Mike Hefner earlier this year, showed that the district may be well on its way to obtaining its independence.
Hefner is reviewing six areas to determine the district's compliance in regard to the desegregation order.
Studies have been completed in the areas of faculty and staffing with student assignment, extracurricular activities, facilities and transportation still to be reviewed.
School Board attorney Elmer Noah said Hefner indicated that the district had done a good job of complying with the decree in the areas of faculty and staffing. Noah said that he hopes to prepare an application for partial unitary status based on the report, sometime within the next few months. However, he said it may be more than 18 months before the district is able to be completely independent.
East Carroll, Tensas and Madison, all predominantly minority districts, have already obtained court approval.

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