Justice Department Settles with School District to Desegregate Elementary School Classrooms in Ruston, Louisiana
The Justice Department has announced that the United States District Court of the Western District of Louisiana yesterday approved a court-ordered agreement with the Lincoln Parish School Board to desegregate classrooms at four elementary schools serving students in grades K-5 in Ruston, Louisiana. The department and the board jointly filed the consent order, after an investigation by the United States found significant racial isolation in the elementary school classrooms (called homerooms) within the Ruston attendance zone.
Under the consent order, the board will implement the following changes at the four elementary schools in Ruston:
- assign students to homerooms so that the percentage of black and white students in each homeroom reflects the percentage of black and white students in each grade level at each school;
- refrain from grouping students into homerooms based on students’ perceived abilities and ensure that students of all academic levels are assigned to each homeroom;
- ensure that no homeroom class has more than forty percent special education inclusion students; and
- if the board chooses to continue operating the Advanced Learning Academy (“ALA”) program, it will transform the ALA program into a school-wide, racially diverse enrichment program designed to develop the gifts and talents of all students.
The consent order is part of a longstanding desegregation case monitored and enforced by the United States. In reviewing the board’s compliance with previous orders on student assignment, the department concluded that the board was engaged in a variety of practices that contributed to the racial isolation in the elementary school homerooms. These practices include the board’s use of ability grouping and the manner in which the board implemented its special education inclusion and ALA programs.
“We commend the Lincoln Parish School Board’s commitment to resolve this case by addressing the racial isolation in its elementary school homerooms in Ruston,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “This consent order reinforces the Civil Rights Division’s steadfast commitment to ensuring that all students have access to equal educational opportunities, regardless of race or color.”
“This order is a significant step for the Lincoln Parish School Board toward achieving the goals of desegregation and equal access to education for all students,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley of the Western District of Louisiana. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Board to ensure that these changes are successfully implemented.”
Upon full implementation of the consent order, the board may seek court approval to dismiss the desegregation case in the area of student assignment in December 2016.
Promoting school desegregation and enforcing Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.