Posted: Jul 17, 2012 6:41 PM by Erin Steuber
Updated: Jul 17, 2012 6:44 PM
The U.S. Justice Department is revisiting the St. Martin Parish Desegregation lawsuit, 38 years after a federal judge said the system was in compliance with a Federal Court order. With school starting in a matter of weeks, will this have an affect on the year?
St. Martin Parish School Board attorney Jack Burson says the decision will not affect students or faculty, the parish has been in compliance with the law for more than 35 years.
"So there hasn't been any massive flight from the system by anybody and the system has functioned well I think," said Burson.
The school board saying the case was closed and dismissed back in 1974.
"The late Judge Richard Putnam rendered a decision in which he said that the St Martin Parish School System was unitary, but he would retain jurisdiction over the case for another two years in case anyone had a complaint bring it forward," said Burson. "But there was no need to retain jurisdiction there after."
But the Justice Department and attorneys for the NCAAP Legal Defense Fund are arguing the case was never closed.
"If the 1974 decree did not dismiss this suit then the St Martin Parish School Board remains under the jurisdiction of this court, and the burden of proof remains with the board," said Leticia Smith-Evans with NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The question now filed in court, is whether or not the case is closed, not if St Martin Parish is in compliance with the law.
"There'll be an appeal to the Fifth Circuit, or they'll just continue operation the school system as its been operated," said Burson.
The case was originally filed in 1965. It was later decided that St Martin Parish School Board was operating a segregated system. The school district was ordered to desegregate all grade levels. In 1974 the judge made his decree based on nine years of reports, finding the board was operating in compliance with the law. But the court still believes it has jurisdiction in the case.