Appeals court: school in desegregation case can open

August 12, 2022 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A south Louisiana school district has won the right to re-open a school that was closed under a federal judge’s order in a long-running desegregation case.

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote that the St. Martin Parish School System cannot yet be declared “unitary” — meaning the desegregation efforts are sufficient to end the case that dates back to 1965.

But the appeals court ruled Thursday that closing Catahoula Elementary was unnecessary. The court said there are workable alternatives to closing the school.

And the opinion noted that an expert for the school system said more Black families are moving into Catahoula Elementary’s attendance zone, which would aid desegregation efforts.

“There’s no doubt that closing Catahoula Elementary School was a harsh remedy,” the 5th Circuit’s Thursday opinion said. “At the evidentiary hearing, one witness testified generally that closing a school in a small community is a very traumatic experience and closing Catahoula Elementary School specifically would cause a loss to the entire community. Another witness posited that Catahoula Elementary School, along with the church, was one of the main pillars of the community.”