By Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - A federal judge has approved a plan to shift school attendance zones in St. Martin Parish to help resolve a decades-old desegregation case.

The Advocate reports ( ) that the St. Martin Parish School Board, the U.S. Justice Department and attorneys for residents challenging racial imbalance in parish schools filed a proposed agreement last week carving out new attendance zones for schools in Catahoula, St. Martinville, Breaux Bridge and Parks.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote approved the plan with minor revisions, according to a statement issued through the law firm representing the school board.

The newspaper reports that the details of the revisions had not been made part of the court record as of Friday.

The desegregation plan focuses on communities where schools have the most notable racial imbalance: Breaux Bridge and St. Martinville, which are majority black, and Catahoula and Parks, which are majority white.

The changes approved by Foote will go into effect next school year, and the school board will begin publicizing the new zones after the court order is finalized.

A written statement from the School Board’s law firm urges “the public to respect the court’s decision and support the district as it moves forward to comply with its desegregation obligations.”

St. Martin Parish officials had for years thought the desegregation case - originally filed in 1965 - was closed in 1974.

But the Justice Department and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund began pushing about six years ago to revive the litigation, arguing it had never been officially resolved and that the school system should still be under federal oversight.

Foote ruled in 2012 that the case remains open, citing ambiguities in the 1974 court ruling the school board thought had closed the case.

Foote’s ruling this week does not end the case, but it resolves one of the major issues.


Information from: The Advocate,

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