Judge says Monroe schools are unitary, rejects desegregation lawsuit



The main office of the Monroe Town School Board.

In a judgment filed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Robbie James said schools in the city of Monroe were no longer under judicial review and declared the district unitary.

James also denied the US Department of Justice’s request for further relief, which argued that the district had failed to meet all requirements to ensure racial equality for students in the areas of teaching and administrative staff and equal courses in all schools.

Monroe City School Board Chairman Bill Willson said the board hoped this would be the result. He said it was a positive day for the district and he wanted to see the district continue on its positive trajectory.

Willson said the board members have worked together diligently as a unit to achieve unitary status.

To be declared oneness, a school district must show achievement in all five areas, called green factors. The schools in the city of Monroe are now unitary in all factors:

  • faculty and staff assignments (2018)
  • transport (2015)
  • extra-curricular activities (1992)
  • installations (1992)
  • student work (2015)

James determined that the district has made progress in evenly distributing white and black teachers throughout the district.

The district, since the fall of 2015, has worked to ensure its administrators understand staffing obligations in order to prevent a disproportionate number of white teachers from teaching in schools attended by most students. white. (The student body is 87% black and there are no majority white schools.)

The judge found that MCSB worked to develop and improve the medical magnet program at Carroll High School, which was created to recruit white students to the school.

The district explained to the court that some medical courses offered as part of the Medical Magnet program and duplicated in other high schools are now required by the state of Louisiana.

The Medical Magnet program is the only one in the district to offer technical training as a certified practical nurse and pharmacy. It also offers courses taught by registered nurses and matchmaking options.

James has determined that the district has met the vast majority of the requirements of the consent decree and in fact exceeded the requirement to renovate the Magnet program facilities by arranging the construction of a $ 1.2 million building.

The judge believes that the court should not exercise oversight just because construction is not finished.

James, who oversaw the prosecution for nearly 20 years, ruled that the district had operated in good faith and essentially complied with the March 2010 consent order. He dismissed the case with bias.

“We are delighted as a school district to come to a conclusion on this matter,” said Superintendent Brent Vidrine. “As a school district, we will continue to work together with the goal of educating students. In addition, we will always seek to understand the role of race, culture and socio-economy in our schools and communities. . We must always work to build the strength of our organization so that we can have a positive impact on the lives of students. Finally, as a district, our staff will continue to engage and pursue a vision that supports best practice of our academic priorities that improve our students. “

Following:Monroe City Schools wants to extend Superintendent’s contract

50 years of legal battles

The lawsuit was originally filed on August 5, 1965 on behalf of students Jimmy Andrews and Tommy Ray Robertson. The filing was against the town of Monroe, the mayor and members of the school board.

On September 17, 1965, the court issued a permanent injunction to prevent the district from having a separate school system.

The court issued a desegregation decree on August 1, 1969.

This decree was subject to 22 modifications on the following dates:

  • November 4, 1969
  • February 11, 1970
  • February 24, 1970
  • August 5, 1970
  • July 30, 1971
  • January 27, 1972
  • Aug 16, 1973
  • August 30, 1973
  • Aug 15, 1988
  • June 7, 1989
  • July 6, 1992
  • April 29, 1998
  • Aug 4, 1998
  • December 18, 2000
  • July 26, 2000
  • Aug 8, 2005
  • March 30, 2010
  • July 25, 2011
  • June 20, 2012
  • December 11, 2015
  • March 24, 2016
  • April 14, 2016.

The US Department of Justice was granted leave to officially intervene in 1978 and has been involved in the case since then.

The district was declared partially unitary in 1992 in the areas of facilities, extracurricular activities, hiring and retention of teachers and administrators.

The main factors to consider were major assignments, student assignments, and transportation.

In 1998, Benya F. Marshall and Annie Faye Harris joined the case as plaintiffs.

In 2010, the DOJ and the City of Monroe School Board filed a draft consent order with the court to address the remaining issues.

The court granted some zoning changes in 2011 and 2012.

The school board filed annual reports from 2010 to 2014, and neither the complainants nor the DOJ raised any new issues.

The court asked all parties to raise concerns in May 2014, noting that the 2010 consent decree remains pending.

During a conference call in July 2014, the court asked the district to file a motion for unitary status or a joint status report by mid-August. The DOJ did not raise any issues.

On August 15, 2014, MCSB legal counsel Doug Lawrence reported that the board had not communicated “a desire or interest in applying to this Court to declare the unitary school district” and had not given it the authorization to submit a case. There were contested elections this fall.

The court delayed further action until the first of the year.

New board, new battles

During a conference call in January 2015, Lawrence told the court that some of the seats had been taken by new members and asked for time to discuss the lawsuit with them. The DOJ did not raise any new issues.

On February 2, 2015, Lawrence said the board still needed time to review his status, and the DOJ raised no concerns.

In May 2015, Lawrence said his client did not intend to file a petition for unitary status, and the DOJ requested information on capital spending for schools in the district. The tribunal told all parties that it is planning a hearing to determine whether the system is unitary.

During a conference call in June 2015, Lawrence reiterated that the MCSB had no intention of seeking unitary status, and DOJ’s attorney said the DOJ would take no further action.

The court set an evidentiary hearing for September 21, 2015. On August 12 and 28, DOJ recruited an additional lawyer.

The DOJ, for the first time since 2010, raised concerns about the district’s compliance at a pre-trial conference on September 8, 2015. The court asked the Department of Justice to work with the MCSB and file a joint report by September 14.

It was also noted that Harris and Marshall had not been represented since the death of their lawyer, Charles Kincade, in October 2014. The clerk has received their updated contact details.

On September 14, 2015, the joint status report was emailed to the court. The DOJ and MCSB have requested that further review of the information be taken. New concerns have been raised about the concentration of white faculty in schools that serve the majority of white students in the school.

The court decided to go ahead with the September 21 hearing as scheduled. The hearing ultimately lasted two days.

On September 25, 2015, James declared the district unitary in student transportation and assignments. He noted that unitary status had not been achieved with regard to the assignments of principals and teachers and that the district had not fully complied with the 2010 consent decree.

In December 2015, the court approved a consent decree filed by the DOJ and the MCSB. The heated discussions among board members regarding the hiring of an independent forensic monitor and the spring flooding delayed the MCSB from meeting all deadlines. The decree was amended in March 2016.

The Neville Alumni and Friends Association, Greg Jones and Nici Hanks have asked to intervene in the lawsuit. The court dismissed the petition after a hearing in April 2016.

The court approved the second amended consent decree on April 14, 2016. It remained in effect until Thursday.

The court held a status conference on the consent decree in May 2016, and in June of that year, the DOJ argued that individual members of MCSB and Vidrine should be found in contempt for not -respect.

The court attempted to hold an evidentiary hearing in September 2016, but attorney Scott Wolleson signed up to represent Vidrine that day and requested an extension. The hearing took place in October. Further deposits and status conferences took place over the following months.

James denied the DOJ’s request to insult the Board and the Superintendent on March 22, 2017. (All related Vidrine or MSCB pleadings were dismissed as moot.)

The DOJ filed a request on September 22, 2017.

The MCSB asked James for permission to file an application ending the desegregation order on September 26. (Permission to testify was granted in October.)

The court held its final hearing in the case on January 16 and 17.

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