DOJ taking St. Martin Parish School Board to trial

St. Martin Parish School Board and the federal government are heading to trial in the upcoming month.

The board made its final decision during a special meeting last night in an ongoing desegregation case.

The federal government gave the board two options: close Catahoula Elementary or convert to K through first grade. Currently, the school is kindergarten through eighth grade.

At a special meeting Monday, the board went into executive session to discuss these options.

After a vote of 5-4, the board decided to keep all schools open.

A decision, former School Board President, Jackie Theriot, agreed, “Business wise you can’t operate a school with fifty kids, not a school that size so the school board would have to close it because of the cost of educating pre-k through first.”

Board attorney, Pam Dill, said 92% of the students at Catahoula are white, but Theriot said this is simply because not as many minorities live in the school district.

The school is being targeted because of an old segregation law that was in place when the lawsuit was filed over 50 years ago, “Any school built in St. Marin Parish or in the state of Louisiana had to be built for whites or for blacks, not for both. We contend that Catahoula Elementary doesn’t fit in that category,” Theriot told KLFY’s Jazmin Thibodeaux.

In 1936, there weren’t any roads for students to be able to travel to St. Martinville so the school in Catahoula was built so the students in the area would have a place to learn.

Because of the board’s rejection, the fate of Catahoula Elementary still hangs in the balance.

Photo of Catahoula school sign Photo Credit: KLFY
Catahoula school sign
Photo Credit: KLFY

The case heads to trial on January 19.

If the judge rule in favor of the Department of Justice, students could be affected as early as next school year.

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